Korea tensions on UN agenda Sunday

Saturday, December 18, 2010

SEOUL/NEW YORK - The UN Security Council is expected to convene Sunday for an emergency meeting convened on short notice to discuss escalating tensions between South and North Korea.

The meeting was requested by Russia, a spokesman for the Russian UN mission told DPA. The council had earlier been expected to meet Saturday.

Tensions have been mounting on the Korean Peninsula as South Korea prepares to carry out a live-fire drill near a disputed maritime border by Tuesday, depending on weather conditions. The exercise was seen as an answer to North Korea’s attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island that killed four people last month.

North Korea earlier Saturday renewed threats to retaliate if South Korean forces carry out the drill. The North Korean military would fight back “mercilessly” if the Yellow Sea border is breached, the Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by state media.

“Our military does not make empty talk,” it added.

Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson was in North Korea on a private reconciliation mission in an effort to defuse the situation. The visit was approved by the US State Department, according to The New York Times which had a reporter travelling with Richardson.

“I’m concerned because there’s the potential of miscalculation,” Richardson said in footage broadcast from North Korea by CNN, referring to South Korea’s planned live-fire military exercises.

Richardson greeted the Security Council intervention, saying he hoped it would appeal “to all sides to calm down”.

Richardson met Saturday the chief nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan for nearly two hours, the Times reported, after meeting North Korea’s vice minister for American affairs, Ri Young-ho, Friday.

He told CNN that there’s concern about North Korea’s “export of nuclear materials to other countries”.

Richardson was expected to visit Pyongyang’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon Sunday and to meet with the top North Korean military official in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry Saturday criticised the US for wanting to deploy about 20 of its soldiers to Yeonpyeong, in support of the maritime drill. The ministry said the soldiers were being used as “human shields”.

The US currently has some 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to deter the communist North.

It remained unclear Saturday on what day the manoeuvres would take place. Military sources said the timing depends on weather conditions, and there were reports that Seoul had postponed the drills beyond Sunday due to bad weather.

On Friday, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general and a South Korean citizen, called last month’s attack by North Korea on the South Korean island one of the gravest provocations since the end of the Korean War, media reports said.

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