Tensions rise as South Korea conducts naval drills
Seoul launches war games near border with the North. Pyongyang calls them a “provocation”. Clinton meets South Korean and Japanese leaders. Obama calls Hu Jintao who says he is very concerned about the situation.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – South Korea started nationwide live-fire naval exercise on Monday, despite tensions with North Korea, official sources announced. The five-day naval drills are taking place at 29 different locations to the west, east and south of the peninsula, including islands in the Yellow Sea close to the disputed intra-Korean maritime border.

South Korea boosted its defences on the five islands close with rockets and more troops after North Korea shelled one of the islands, Yeonpyeong, on 23 November, killing four people, causing an international uproar.

Pyongyang justified its artillery attack, claiming that South Korea had shelled its positions near the dispute maritime border.

The current war games are designed to deter North Korea from fresh attacks, but they are taking place near Daecheong Island, some 80 kilometres away from Yeonpyeong Island.

In the meantime, diplomatic activity is underway. This afternoon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met South Korean and Japanese leaders to find a joint position on the problem.

US President Barack Obama spoke yesterday on the phone with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, telling him to “send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable”.

Hu noted that the situation was delicate, and that he was “greatly concerned about” the current tension on the peninsula and that the security situation “could lead to further escalation of tension, or even run out of control, if it’s not properly handled” by a “calm and rational response from all sides.”

The Chinese leader added he was saddened by the loss of life and property last month.

Two civilians and two soldiers died because of North Korea’s shelling.