Fresh attack heard on Korean island


Fire flares up near a South Korean Marine's K-9 self-propelled gun after the area was hit by North Korean artillery shells (AP)

Artillery fire has been heard on the Yellow Sea island attacked earlier this week by North Korea, South Korea has said.

Military chiefs said the artillery was heard twice on the Yeonpyeong island, as the North warned that US-South Korean military drills planned for the weekend were pushing the peninsula to the brink of war.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said two explosive sounds were heard on Yeonpyeong, while television news reporters also reported a third blast.

In its “brink of war” warning, the Korean Central News Agency added: “Gone are the days when verbal warnings are served only.”

North Korea’s army and people were “now greatly enraged” and “getting fully ready to give a shower of dreadful fire”.

“Escalated confrontation would lead to a war, and he who is fond of playing with fire is bound to perish,” the agency said.

North Korea’s state news agency said earlier the drills involving South Korean forces and a US nuclear-powered supercarrier south of Tuesday’s skirmish between the rival Koreas were a reckless plan by “trigger-happy elements”, and the manoeuvres targeted the North.

General Walter Sharp, the US military commander in South Korea, has visited Yeonpyeong island, where four South Koreans – two marines and two civilians – were killed in the hour-long clash when the North unleashed a hail of artillery.

Meanwhile, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak ordered reinforcements for about 4,000 troops on Yeonpyeong and four other Yellow Sea islands, as well as top-level weaponry for the soldiers.

He also upgraded rules of engagement that would create a new category of response when civilian areas were targeted and sacked his defence minister amid the intense criticism over lapses in the country’s response to the attack.

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