x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

China proposes crisis talks as N Korea readies missiles

North Korea places surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea, as the US and South Korea began military exercises and China calls for emergency six-nation meetings.

A South Korean army soldier attends an exercise before a marines landing drill. North Korea has reportedly placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the  Yellow Sea, as the US and South Korea began military exercises and China said it would try to ensure peace.
A South Korean army soldier attends an exercise before a marines landing drill. North Korea has reportedly placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea, as the US and South Korea began military exercises and China said it would try to ensure peace.

YEONPYEONG, SOUTH KOREA // North Korea has placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the  Yellow Sea, Yonhap news agency reported today, as the  United States and South Korea began military exercises. China called for an emergency meeting in early December of envoys to the six-nation talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament.

"The Chinese side, after careful study, proposes to have emergency consultations among the heads of delegation to the six-party talks in early December in Beijing to exchange views on major issues of concern to the parties at present," said Wu Dawei, China's representative to the stalled talks.

Mr Wu stressed that the consultations did not constitute a formal resumption of the six-nation negotiations.

South Korea's Presidential Office said it was not the time to discuss the resumption of six-party nuclear talks, Yonhap news agency said.

Blue House Spokesman Hong Sang-pyo said the subject of the multilateral forum was raised during President Lee Myung-bak's meeting with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo but Lee "made it clear it was not the time to discuss it", Yonhap said.

Yonhap also said North Korea had moved surface-to-air  missiles to frontline areas, days after it shelled a tiny  South Korean island killing four people. The North’s official KCNA news agency warned of retaliatory action if its territory  is violated.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry told journalists to leave  the island, Yeonpyeong, because the situation was “bad”. Many residents evacuated earlier said they did not want to return.

“We will deliver a brutal military blow on any provocation  which violates our territorial waters,” KCNA said.

Officials from South Korea’s Defence Ministry and the  joint chiefs said they could not comment on the Yonhap report.  “It is impossible to confirm the report as it is classified as military secret,” an official said.

The exercises, in waters far south of the disputed  maritime boundary, are being held in the face of opposition by China and threats of all-out war from North Korea.

The chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly will visit China from Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency  said. Mr Lee told Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, who outranks Foreign Minister Yang Jiechie, that Beijing, with its  growing international influence, should do more to help ensure  peace.

China has not taken sides in the conflict and declined to  blame North Korea, unlike the United States, for the sinking  of a South Korean naval vessel in March.

“We ask that China make a contribution to peace on the  Korean peninsula by taking a more fair and responsible  position on South-North Korea ties,” the presidential Blue House quoted Mr Lee as telling Mr Dai.

“The Chinese side conveyed the message of condolences for  the South Korean victims of the Yeonpyeong incident and said  it would make efforts to prevent the situation from  deteriorating for the sake of peace between the South and  North,” Mr Lee’s spokesman said.

Mr Lee said the attack on civilians, coming after the  revelation of the North’s highly uranium enrichment programme,  was a grave change in the situation.

“Lee asked that China play a role in North-South ties to  match its growing international stature at a time when the  Cold War is over and we should be pursuing coexistence and  peace in the 21st century,” Mr Lee’s spokesman, Hong Sang-pyo,  said.

Washington says the drill is intended as a deterrent after the worst assault on South Korea since the end of the Korean  War in 1953.

Seoul expects jitters in financial markets to settle in  the short term unless North Korea carries out further  provocations, Yonhap quoted a senior Finance Ministry official  as saying.

The government plans to inject sufficient liquidity in won and dollar trading if local markets suffer from herd behaviour tomorrow, Yonhap said.

Life went on as normal in the sunny and cold capital,  Seoul. In the chic shopping district of Myeondong, tens of  thousands jammed the streets looking for bargains and drinking  coffee at cafes. There has been no disruption of air and  shipping routes.

The nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington, which  carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, has joined  the exercises and will be accompanied by at least four other  U.S. warships, an official from U.S. Forces Korea (USKF) said.

South Korea has deployed three destroyers, frigates and  anti-submarine aircraft, Yonhap news agency reported, adding  the exercises were being held far south of the disputed area  where the artillery firing took place on Tuesday.

South Korea’s marine commander on Saturday vowed  “thousand-fold” revenge for the North Korean attack that  killed two servicemen and two civilians.

North Korea said that if there had been civilian deaths,  they were “very regrettable”, but that South Korea should be  blamed for using a human shield.

It also said the United States should be blamed for  “orchestrating” the whole sequence of events to justify  sending an aircraft carrier to join the maritime manoeuvres.