South Korea and US hold joint exercises; North does not retaliate

Monday, December 20, 2010

South Korea held joint military exercises with the United States on Monday on Yeonpyeong Island, which was shelled by North Korea last month. North Korea had warned of an "unpredictable self-defensive blow" if the exercises went ahead, but the country did not retaliate, saying it was "not worth" attacking, despite "reckless provocations" from the South.

South Korean officials reported the drills, involving McDonnell Douglas F-15K fighter aircraft, lasted less than two hours.
Image: United States Air Force.

The United Nations Security Council held an eight hour emergency meeting as tensions escalated on the Korean peninsula before the exercises began. The controversial issue divided opinion within the council; China and Russia both asked South Korea to call off the exercise over fears it could start a war on the peninsula, but the US supported its ally, saying the drills were "fully consistent with South Korea's legal right to self defence".

Officials in Pyongyang had threatened a "catastrophe" if the exercises, taking place on an island close to the border with the North, went ahead. They did not attack the South, however; state media quoted a North Korean military official as saying: "The world should properly know who is the true champion of peace and who is the real provocateur of a war." South Korea had said they would retaliate "immediately and sternly" to any attack from the North.

South Korean officials reported the drills, involving K9 Thunder guns and F-15K fighter aircraft, lasted less than two hours. During the drill, civilians on Yeonpyeong Island moved into air-raid shelters, which, the BBC reported, was part of the planned procedure for the exercise.

Yeonpyeong Island, which, although controlled by the South, is visible from the North, and came under attack from the North last month. Nearly 200 rounds of artillery were fired at the island in the attack; four people were killed and another 14 were injured in the attack. At the time of the attack, the South had been holding annual military exercises with the US. Troops on the island returned fire, firing nearly 80 rounds of artillery, but no damage was reported on the North Korean side.