NKorea stages artillery drill, warns of threat of war

A South Korean marine tank is seen on Yeonpyeong island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on Friday. AFP

Beijing’s warning came as the Seoul government named a career soldier as its new defence minister amid mounting criticism of the response to Tuesday’s attack by North Korea, its heaviest bombardment since the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korean artillery shells rained down on the small South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, killing four people and destroying dozens of houses.

“The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war due to the reckless plan of those trigger-happy elements to stage again war exercises targeted against the (North),” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

The aggressive language is typical of North Korean state-owned media, but the heightened tension was enough to depress the won as much as 2.2 per cent. The stock market closed 1.3 per cent down, in line with the wider region.

Show of strength

The United States is sending in an aircraft carrier group led by the nuclear-powered USS George Washington to the Yellow Sea for military exercises with South Korea starting on Sunday.

Planned before this week’s attack, the four-day manoeuvres are a show of strength which, besides enraging North Korea, have unsettled China, its neighbour and only real ally.

“We oppose any unilateral military act conducted in China’s exclusive economic zone without approval,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in an online response to a question regarding China’s position on the George Washington participating in joint naval exercises.

The exclusive economic zone is a maritime zone up to 200 nautical miles from a country’s coast.

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