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North Korea warns Seoul against military exercises near flashpoint

By the CNN Wire Staff
South Korean marines patrol along the wharf on Yeonpyeong island near the maritime border between the two Koreas.
South Korean marines patrol along the wharf on Yeonpyeong island near the maritime border between the two Koreas.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Russian Foreign Ministry urges United States and South Korea to call off military drill
  • November drill on Yeonpyeong Isand resulted shelling by North Korea, four deaths
  • North Korea says it will deliver a "self-defensive blow" to the South if military exercise takes place
  • Yeonpyeong Island is a flashpoint between the Koreas

(CNN) -- North Korea warned Friday it would launch a military strike against the South if Seoul goes ahead with live-fire drills near Yeonpyeong Island over the next five days, North Korea's state-run KCNA reported.

South Korea "should take a prompt measure to stop the planned provocative maritime shelling from Yeonpyeong Island," the report said. The Korean People's Army "will deal the second and third unpredictable self-defensive blow at them to protect the inviolable territorial waters of" North Korea "as it had declared before the world."

The Russian Foreign Ministry also warned against the drills in a meeting Friday among Deputy Foreign Minister Alexi Borodavkin, U.S. ambassador John Beyrle and Lee Younho, the South Korean ambassador to Moscow, according to a statement posted to the ministry's website.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Thursday that the exercises will take place in the seas southwest of Yeonpyeong Island between December 18 and 21.

The South previously announced military exercises for this week.

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Tensions mounted between the Koreas on November 23, when North Korea shelled the island, which lies in South Korean territory. The attacked killed two marines and two civilians and injured 18 people.

The North has accused the South of provoking the attack because shells from a South Korean military drill landed in the North's waters.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Boradavkin reminded the U.S. and South Korean ambassadors at Friday's meeting that the November drill resulted in casulties and that canceling the drills was critical to avoid further possible escalation of tensions.

Last month's attack was the first direct artillery assault on South Korea since 1953, when an armistice ended fighting.

The U.S. military has said it is concerned that South Korea's exercises could spark an uncontrollable clash with the North, but the State Department said the exercises are not meant to be threatening or provocative.

"What we worry about, obviously, is if that is misunderstood or if it's taken advantage of as an opportunity," Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the Pentagon. "If North Korea were to react to that in a negative way and fire back at those firing positions on the islands, that would start potentially a chain reaction of firing and counter-firing."

 
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