South Korea to begin exercises near border with North

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11:56 20.12.2010
text: Kazinform
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The South Korean military will begin live-firing exercises on an island close to the border with North Korea in the coming hours, its military says.

The move comes despite repeated threats of retaliation from Pyongyang.

Four people were killed when the North shelled the island during an earlier drill last month.

The UN Security Council has been discussing the situation in New York, but has failed to reach any agreement.

Speaking to reporters after more than eight hours of discussions, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on South Korea to cancel its plans.

"It's better to refrain from doing this exercise at this point in time," he said.

He said the UN had failed to reach an agreement on the crisis, but contacts would be pursued between the main powers.

The issue has threatened to divide permanent members of the Security Council - with China and Russia urging South Korea to put off the exercise, but the US saying its ally is entitled to make sure it is "properly prepared in the face of... ongoing provocations".

The US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said it was "safe to predict that the gaps that remain are unlikely to bridged."

Residents on the island of Yeonpyeong have been told to move into air-raid shelters - part of regular procedure ahead of military exercises in the area.

Initially, it was reported that the exercise would begin at 0200 GMT, but it has now been put back to 0400 GMT, because of fog, according to a Defence Ministry spokesman.

The drill is expected to last for two hours, BBC News reports.

See www.bbc.co,uk for full version.