China Stalls UN Council Efforts as South Korea Prepares Drill

China Stalls UN Council Efforts South Korea Prepares Drill
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak. Photographer: Kim Min-Hee-Pool/Getty Images

United Nations Security Council efforts to calm tensions between North and South Korea were stalled as China refused to support a resolution condemning the North for a Nov. 23 attack on a South Korean-held island.

China declines to join a majority of the Security Council members in condemning the North Korean attack, according to a diplomat present at the meeting who spoke with reporters on condition of anonymity. The Chinese mission to the UN didn’t respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

Russia called an emergency session of the UN council today saying it feared “further escalation of tensions” on the Korean peninsula after South Korea said it would hold live-fire artillery drills on an island near North Korea’s coast.

South Korea will go ahead with the drill sometime Dec. 20, said an official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff who declined to be named, citing military policy. The official wasn’t able to give a time for the drill in the disputed western sea border of the two nations.

South Korea’s last artillery exercise in the area, where it fired shells into the sea off the Southern-held Yeonpyeong island, were met with a return barrage Nov. 23 that killed four South Koreans on the island.

Massive Retaliation

The North says it won’t recognize a sea boundary drawn up by U.S. officials commanding UN troops at the end of the Korean War in 1953. It says the sea around the islands belongs to the North, and has vowed massive retaliation if the South again fires into the sea around the islands. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea.

The Security Council must “help launch diplomatic activity with a view to resolving all issues of dispute between the two Korean sides by political and diplomatic means,” Russia’s ambassador to the world body, Vitaly Churkin, said in a statement late yesterday.

South Korea’s new defense minister vowed Dec. 3 that his country would reply with moves including airstrikes if North Korea makes another attack.

“I will mobilize all combat capabilities available to severely punish the enemy,” Kim Kwan Jin, former chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a confirmation hearing. “I will surely use planes. This is a matter of self-defense.”

Weak Response

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on Nov. 29 apologized for what he called the military’s weak response to North Korea’s Nov. 23 shelling.

North Korea’s attack on the fishing community and military outpost of Yeonpyeong was the first shelling of South Korean soil since the 1950-1953 war.

The artillery exercises will take place on Dec. 20 or Dec. 21, a spokesman at the Joint Chiefs of Staff who declined to be named, citing military policy, said today by telephone in Seoul. North Korea warned it will retaliate if the exercise takes place.

Shelling by South Korea “would make it impossible to prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from exploding,” North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency cited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying in a statement yesterday. South Korea sees no reason for abandoning the drill just because other countries say it shouldn’t happen, the South Korean military spokesman said today.

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