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N Korea lashes out at S Korea's naval firing drill this week

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SEOUL (AFP): North Korea Sunday denounced a planned naval firing drill by South Korea, the latest in a flurry of exercises by Seoul after Pyongyang's deadly attack on a South Korean island last month.

The state-run Korea Central News Agency called the South's upcoming drill, scheduled to take place off all three coasts of the peninsula from Monday to Friday, “an effort to trigger a war.”

South Korea's military has earmarked 29 places for the drills, including one of five frontier islands near the tense maritime border on the Yellow Sea, according to coordinates given by Seoul.

"The enemy's provocative madness has been driving the situation in the Korean peninsula into an uncontrollably extreme state... no one can expect how the situation will develop in the future," it said.

South Korea has staged a series of military exercises, including a massive four-day joint naval drill with the US last week, amid high tension following the North's shelling attack on Yeonpyeong island on November 23.

Two marines and two civilians were killed by the North's first bombardment of South Korean civilians since the 1950-53 Korean War, which also destroyed dozens of homes and set forests ablaze.

The North has accused the South of firing first.

KCNA said on Sunday the communist country is for now "trying to remain calm and restrained" amid the military build-up in the South.

But it also cautioned a possible "all-out war between the two Koreas would have grave impacts not only to the Korean peninsula but also to the peace and stability of the whole region."

"The US and the enemies should keep in mind how disastrous consequences their reckless military provocations will bring about and should refrain from raving about," said KCNA.

Yeonpyeong lies just south of the border declared by UN forces after the war, but north of the sea frontier declared by Pyongyang.

The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 and has always been a potential flashpoint.

Tensions have been acute since the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

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