Friday 28 April 2017

US sends aircraft carrier to South Korea in wake of rocket attack by North

A local resident looks around damaged houses on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, yesterday, the day after the island was hit by artillery shells fired by North Korea
A local resident looks around damaged houses on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, yesterday, the day after the island was hit by artillery shells fired by North Korea

Nicholas Johnston in Washington

AMERICA has dispatched an aircraft carrier to take part in exercises off the Korean Peninsula in a show of strength in the aftermath of North Korea's first attack on the south in 50 years.

US President Barack Obama spoke with South Korean leader Lee Myung Bak for 30 minutes by phone yesterday before ordering the the USS George Washington from Japan to take part in the drills.

These will take place off the South's western coast from November 28 to December 1, it was reported.

There are currently about 25,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

"The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our close friend and ally," Mr Obama told Mr Lee, according to a White House statement.

North Korea must stop its "provocative actions, which will only lead to further isolation".

The two leaders agreed that further sanctions against North Korea may be necessary, Mr Lee's office said in a statement.

South Korea raised its military-alert status to the second- highest level after North Korea fired on the island of Yeonpyeong, its defence minister, Kim Tae Young, said.

Four people were killed and 20 wounded, mostly soldiers, when northern forces shelled the island in the first attack of its kind since the 1950-1953 civil war.

Sanctions

North Korea fired about 170 artillery shells, 90 of which landed in the water, according to South Korea's joint chiefs of staff.

Mr Lee ordered his administration to see if the military's battle manuals can be revised to "respond more actively" to provocations and bolstered military capabilities on islands on the western border, according to a statement from his office.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the incident a "barbaric act".

His government will consider fresh sanctions against North Korea, Economy Minister Banri Kaieda said.

Honda Motors, Mazda and Fuji all said they were suspending business travel to South Korea as a result of the attack.

China is increasingly frustrated with the actions of its ally North Korea, though there is not likely to be any immediate change to Chinese policy, Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations at Peking University, said in an interview.

"This attack proves that North Korea is entirely a minus to China's foreign policy," he said.

"I see growing frustration and I see a new imperative to overhaul the policy," Mr Zhu added.

Shada Islam, an Asia expert at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said national interests would determine when China loses patience with North Korea.

"The Chinese leadership isn't worried about how the world sees them," Mr Islam said.

Irish Independent

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