National

Weather halts South Korean drills

YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — South Korea's military waited for better weather to hold live-fire drills that the North warned would cause it to retaliate, but the high tensions prompted the U.N. Security Council to schedule an emergency meeting at Russia's request.

The one-day firing drills are planned by Tuesday on the same front-line island the North shelled last month as the South's military conducted similar drills. The shelling killed four people on Yeonpyeong Island near the tense sea border.

The North's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that South Korea would face an unspecified "catastrophe" if the drills take place, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The North also said it would strike harder than before.

South Korea says the drills are routine, defensive in nature and should not be considered threatening. The U.S. supports that and says any country has a right to train for self-defense, but Russia and China, fellow permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have expressed concern.

Russia's Foreign Ministry urged South Korea to cancel to avoid escalating tensions.

The Security Council scheduled emergency closed-door consultations on North Korea for 11 a.m. today at Russia's request, said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The United States holds the council's rotating presidency this month.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Russian government believes the Security Council must send "a restraining signal" to North Korea and help launch diplomatic actions to resolve all disputes between North Korea and South Korea.

China, the North's key ally, said it is firmly against any acts that could worsen already high tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun also warned in a statement that the situation on the Korean peninsula is "extremely precarious."

Bad weather is preventing the artillery drills over the weekend, but they will be conducted either Monday or Tuesday, a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said Saturday.

The military was ready to respond to any possible provocation, the officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Marines carrying rifles conducted routine patrols Saturday. About 300 residents, officials and journalists remain on Yeonpyeong, but officials said they had no immediate plans to order a mandatory evacuation to the mainland.

  Comments