Residents evacuated ahead of drills


South Korean Marines check the identity of a resident in front of a shelter on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea

South Korean troops will conduct firing drills on Monday from a border island shelled by a North Korean artillery barrage last month, despite Pyongyang’s threat to retaliate again, the South’s military said.

Marines will conduct the one-day artillery drills on Yeonpyeong Island with the exact timing determined by weather conditions, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

South Korea’s military will “immediately and sternly” deal with any possible provocation by North Korea, the officer said.

Residents, local officials and journalists on the island were ordered to evacuate to underground shelters because of possible attacks by North Korea, he said.

The North has warned of a “catastrophe” if South Korea goes ahead with the drills.

The North has said it would strike back harder than it did last month when two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed on the island.

The UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement Sunday to address rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

US Ambassador Susan Rice said the US and other council members demanded that the council condemn North Korea for two deadly attacks this year that have helped send relations to their lowest point in decades. But diplomats said China strongly objected.

After eight hours of closed-door consultations, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who called the emergency council meeting, told reporters: “We were not successful in bridging all the bridges.”

Although some countries still need to consult capitals, Ms Rice said “the gaps that remain are unlikely to be bridged”.

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