North Korea says on 'brink of war' as US, South Korea prepare for military exercises
North Korea kept up its harsh rhetoric Friday, indicating that it saw upcoming military exercises as fresh provocation. US Gen. Walter Sharp toured the island area attacked by the North on Tuesday.
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Tensions have been high since the North shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, taking relations between the two Koreas to one of its lowest points since the Korean War. And ahead of the US-South Korean drills scheduled to begin on Sunday, the North continued to rattle its saber, saying it was “ready to annihilate the South’s stronghold” if it violated the North’s sovereignty. North Korea also conducted artillery test fires audible on Yeonpyeong.
The rounds fired on Friday were the first heard since the attack earlier this week, and South Korea’s Ministry of Defense spokesman, Kwon Ki-hyeon, told The New York Times that all of the rounds fired appeared to stay within North Korea and were thus likely part of a drill or a show of force designed to keep South Korean forces on edge.
South Korea appears to be preparing for the possibility of more acts of aggression, with government officials announcing that they would change their rules of engagement. Previously, those had been designed to stop a conflict from escalating, but they are being altered to make it easier for South Korean forces to respond to any further “provocations,” reports The Chosunilbo.
“This type of provocation [by North Korea] can happen again at any time. We must strengthen our alert, especially in the West Sea area,” the article quoted President Lee Myung-bak as stating. “Vulnerable areas like the five West Sea islands must be thoroughly prepared with the latest equipment to counter localized provocations and asymmetric warfare threats.”