Steve Herman,Â VOA News
South Korea’s military says it is waiting for better weather to start a controversial live-firing artillery exercise. North Korea is threatening retaliation if the artillery drill goes ahead onÂ Yeonpyeong island. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the high tension on the Korean peninsula.
South Korean defense officials say it is unfavorable weather, not diplomatic restraint, that is delaying a planned artillery drill on Yeonpyeong island.
North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong last month, hours after a similar South Korean exercise on the island. The November 23rd attack killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.
South Korean marines plan to fire – on Monday or Tuesday – howitzer and other artillery shells into the Yellow Sea from the western frontier island.
The firing is to be aimed southwest, away from North Korea. But some military experts are expressing concern, noting Pyongyang’s vow to retaliate if the exercise goes ahead.
North Korea does not recognize the de facto maritime boundary, known as the Northern Limit Line. Statements from the government in Pyongyang warn that the South Korean exercise will provoke “tragic disasters” on the peninsula and the provocateurs will be punished with a firm and unmerciful military response.
U.S. military officials, such as Defense Department spokesman Col. David Lapan, are defending South Korea’s right to go ahead with the artillery exercise.
“They do them all the time. It’s on an established range,” Lapan said. “Everyone has been notified. They have gone through all the protocols.”
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