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S. Korea plans live drills today

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea will go ahead with live firing drills today despite North Korea's threat to retaliate, the South's military said, sharply ramping up tensions as the U.N. failed to find a solution.

Marines will conduct the one-day artillery drills on Yeonpyeong Island — shelled by a North Korean artillery barrage last month — and the exact timing will be determined by weather conditions, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

South Korea's military will "immediately and sternly" deal with any possible provocation by North Korea, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity citing department rules.

Residents, local officials and journalists on the island were ordered to evacuate to underground shelters because of possible attacks by North Korea, he said.

Yonhap news agency, citing an unidentified military officer, said the firing may start as early as around 11 a.m. The Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said he couldn't confirm the report.

The North has warned of a "catastrophe" if South Korea goes ahead with the drills.

The North has said it would strike back harder than it did last month, when two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed on the island.

The U.N. Security Council failed Sunday to agree on a statement to address the rising tensions.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States and other council members demanded that the council condemn North Korea. But diplomats said China strongly objected.

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