UN in meeting over Korean tensions


South Korean marines patrol on Yeonpyeong island amid growing tensions. (AP)

The UN Security Council is meeting in an emergency session amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and a North Korean warning of a “catastrophe” if South Korea goes ahead with a live-fire drill.

Russia called for the meeting, and Moscow wants the UN’s most powerful body to adopt a statement calling on North Korea and South Korea “to exercise maximum restraint”.

The North has warned of “catastrophe” if the South goes ahead with plans to conduct one-day, live-fire drills by Tuesday on the same front-line island the North shelled last month as the South conducted a similar exercise.

A draft presidential statement circulated by Russia to council members also stresses the need for efforts “to ensure a de-escalation of tension” between the two Koreas and a “resumption of dialogue and resolution of all problems dividing them exclusively through peaceful diplomatic means”.

It asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately to send an envoy to both countries “to consult on urgent measures to settle peacefully the current crisis situation in the Korean Peninsula”.

The council began meeting behind closed doors and heard a briefing from UN political chief B. Lynn Pascoe on the situation in the Koreas.

Pascoe echoed Ban’s remarks on Friday when the secretary-general called the November 23 North Korean attack on the tiny island of Yeonpyeong “one of the gravest provocations since the end of (the) Korean War” in 1953, according to a council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations are closed.

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