S Korea ups ante with new live-fire exercises
South Korea will stage fresh live-fire military exercises along its border with North Korea today in a further show of force against Kim Jong-il's regime.
The drills come 48 hours after the world breathed a sigh of relief when an earlier live-fire artillery exercise passed off without the promised retaliation by Pyongyang.
The latest exercises are to go ahead despite calls from China and Russia for both sides to act "with restraint" and avoid risking further escalation of conflict after a North Korean artillery bombardment on November 23 that killed four people.
Seoul said it was determined to push ahead with another "show of force", adding that it would "completely punish" the North if it attacks again.
"The scale of mechanised assets taking place is enormous," a South Korean army officer said.
In a further sign that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is determined to be seen to be standing firm against Northern aggression, his government also gave permission for a 100ft-tall steel Christmas tree to be illuminated on the border for the first time in seven years.
The tree has been denounced in the past as "propaganda" by the atheist North. The North did not react officially to news of the exercises.
The North has made some conciliatory gestures in recent days -- telling a visiting US governor that it might allow international nuclear inspections of its atomic programs -- but Seoul appears unmoved. (© Daily Telegraph, London)