South Korean protesters hold defaced portraits of North Korean leader… (Ahn Young-joon )
Nearly two years after North Korea bombarded a South Korean island with deadly fire, it threatened Wednesday to strike again as South Korea plans military drills and memorial ceremonies on the attack anniversary.
The North Korean assault on Yeonpyeong two years ago came as the South Korean military held drills nearby, an act the northern nation called “preparation for an invasion.” South Korea plans to conduct military exercises in the area again Friday, the second anniversary of the attack.
A South Korean Marine Corps official told Yonhap news agency that it would simulate combat scenarios including “an unprovoked attempt to occupy the island,” which lies near a disputed maritime border. The military will not use live fire in artillery drills, the Marine Corps official told Yonhap. It’s unclear if that will mollify Pyongyang, which lashed out this week in state media.
“The warmongers, failing to draw a lesson from a bitter defeat … are making desperate efforts to seize this as an occasion of igniting a war against the north,” its state news agency reported.
Marking the anniversary with drills and ceremonies “will lead to the second Yeonpyeong Island disaster,” a North Korean army spokesman told the Korean Central News Agency.
Four people were killed in the barrage two years ago, one of the most serious clashes on the peninsula in decades. The ensuing furor led to the resignation of the South Korean defense minister and thrust the country back into a Cold War mentality after years of growing contact with the northern nation.
The North Korean threat spurred rallies Thursday in Seoul, where protesters burned North Korean flags and hoisted signs with the defaced picture of leader Kim Jong Un.
The anniversary and the surrounding tensions come a month after President Lee Myung-bak visited Yeonpyeong, the first South Korean leader to do so. Some speculate the president has been drawing attention back to the North Korean threat and other territorial disputes to bolster the image of his party before elections next month.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin argued North Korea might be eyeing the elections for its own reasons. "North Korea could commit provocative acts in order to inject fears of war into South Koreans before the election," Kim told the Agence France-Presse.
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