South Korea has carried out live-fire military exercises on an island close to the border with North Korea, despite threats of retaliation from Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, North Korea has said it will not retaliate against South Korea's latest military exercises, despite dubbing it “a reckless military provocation.”
42 people have been evacuated from the front-line island. South Korea's Defense Ministry says the live-fire artillery drills lasted for about 90 minutes.
This island was shelled by North Korea after similar drills last month, killing four people.
This time the drills come after eight hours of talks at the UN Security Council emergency meeting to try and calm the tensions.
Participants were discussing the Russian draft resolution, which called on both North and South Korea to refrain from escalating the conflict.
Moscow asked Seoul to cancel the military exercises, warning they might cause unpredictable developments in the region.
China has backed Russia's call to restrain South Korea, but the US has maintained Seoul has the right to hold the military drills.
The UN failed to come up with a co-ordinated statement due to a difference in approaches.
“There may be a serious aggravation of tension – a serious conflict for that matter – so in the big chamber when we were at this private meeting, which was also, of course, asked for by the Russian Federation, we reiterated the call for restraint on both parties in no uncertain terms,” said Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN. “We asked the Republic of Korea to refrain from conducting this exercise at this point and time. But there are certain political circumstances. We tried to deal with this situation. Unfortunately, so far the Security Council has not been entirely successful.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia regrets the fact that the UNSC emergency meeting has not resulted in a statement.
“We cannot be optimistic in this situation,” Sergey Lavrov said. “That's why we suggested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council last weekend. We did not want to condemn anyone. We only wanted to urge the sides to show self-control. Tensions are very high. The meeting took place, and although unfortunately no statement was made, we managed to send a clear message during the discussion.”
Watch RT’s Sarah Firth report.
Professor Rudiger Frank says Russia is best suited to act as a mediator in the ongoing Korean conflict.
Georgy Toloraya, director of Korean studies at the Institute of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that South Korea is playing with fire.
Toloraya believes that South Korea’s goals are to pressure North Korea and even risk a conflict to isolate and to further influence the North Korean regime, supposing that it will capitulate – which is ungrounded.
“The situation is really tense now and you cannot predict if and when the conflict would happen,” he says. “Unfortunately, at this point of time we have to depend more on supposedly unpredictable irrational regime in Pyongyang rather than on the actions of the South Korean government who shows no restraint and this is very pitiful.”
“I think that North Koreans will try to restrain from unprovoked action, but who knows where the limit of patience is? If the shells start falling on North Korean territory, they could start firing back and we would never know what really happened and who really started that fire,” he assessed.
Sara Flounders from the International Action Сenter in New York believes tensions in the region are a provocation caused by the United States.
“It is an extremely serious and tense situation. This is the 4th direct provocation of US-South Korean military exercises in less then a month. We are really talking about many ships in the area, fifty to seventy ships, hundreds of aircraft, tens of thousands of troops operating just a few miles – 3 to 7 miles – off of North Korea’s coast, many miles north of the demilitarized zone. That in itself is a provocation,” she said. “Here is South Korea, with US backing support and US participation. And the United States is moving nuclear powered and nuclear weaponed aircraft carriers directly into the region off the coast. These are really dangerous provocations.”
“The very fact that the UN Security Council meeting took place was an important step. Nevertheless, the danger increases as long as all of the ships, aircraft carriers, and troops are in the region and continue these very dangerous military maneuvers. Every one of them is a provocation, anyone of them really could lead to wider war,” she adds.
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