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South Korea marks island bombing anniversary with military exercise

SEOUL — South Korea marked Friday’s two-year anniversary of a deadly North Korean attack by staging an exercise at the site and shrugging off Pyongyang’s warnings of dire consequences.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, speaking at a ceremony at the War Memorial in Seoul, said the Nov. 23, 2010, artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island was the worst act of Northern hostility against its neighbor since the Korean War. The shelling, which led the South to return fire, killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Kim said South Korea’s military will continue to maintain an “airtight defense posture” and called for unity against the North Korean threat.

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A day earlier, the North threatened to launch a second assault on Yeonpyeong because of the South’s claims that it defeated the North in the attack. Commemorations of the attack “will lead to the second Yeonpyeong Island disaster,” a North Korean military spokesman was quoted as saying by the Korea Central News Agency.

On Friday, the North’s Rodong Shinmun newspaper said in an editorial that it considers the Yeonpyeong conflict a victory, and its military will “never miss the chance” to respond to a South Korean provocation.

However, a spokesman for the South’s Ministry of National Defense said Friday that officials had detected no unusual North Korean troop movements or signs that Pyongyang was planning an imminent attack.

Officials have declined to give details about the exercise but have said it does not involve live fire. No U.S. forces were involved.

The Yeonpyeong anniversary comes as amid growing worries that the North will conduct another attack sometime before South Korea’s Dec. 19 president elections – a fear reiterated by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Thursday.

“The North could commit provocative acts to stir up fear of war among South Koreans before the election, and after the election it could launch a provocation” in an attempt to test the new government, Kim was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo.

South Korea’s Yonhap News reported Friday that Seoul has recently deployed an unspecified number of long-range cruise missiles on naval vessels capable of striking anywhere in the North.

An MND spokesman refused to comment on the report, saying the deployment of missiles is a “confidential” matter because it deals with national security.

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed concerns about a belligerent North Korea during a speech Monday at Myanmar’s University of Yangon, offering Pyongyang “an extended hand of peace” if it changed it ways.

“To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice: let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress,” he said.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

chang.yookyong@pstripes.osd.mil

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