S. Korea plans new drills as China avoids blaming North

By Yeonhee Kim, Reuters

SEOUL — South Korea plans further military drills after U.S. warships leave on Wednesday, Yonhap news agency said, a move likely to add to tension on the divided peninsula after last week’s attack by the North.

The North’s only powerful ally, China, protected Pyongyang from censure by the U.N. Security Council for last week’s deadly bombardment of the South’s Yeonpyeong island, an attack many analysts believe was an attempt to force the resumption of international negotiations that could bring it aid.

As the nuclear-powered USS George Washington headed out of Korean waters back to Japan, oil traders said the U.S. Navy was seeking a medium-range oil tanker to move at least 30,000 tons of jet fuel from Japan to South Korea, suggesting it was stockpiling. The route is unusual for jet fuel, but a U.S. military official such shipments were standard for operational use.

South Korea was planning further artillery drills, “including waters close to the Yellow Sea border (with the North)” starting on Monday, Yonhap said.

The Defense Ministry would not comment on the report. Such drills are common and the exercise would be west of Yeonpyeong, Yonhap said.

The plan was to “beef up its defense readiness posture against any possible additional provocations by North Korea”, it said, quoting officials. An attempt by France and Britain to push the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea’s nuclear program and the attack on Yeonpyeong was on the verge of collapse because of China’s unwillingness to apportion blame, envoys said.

The reason for the virtual breakdown of talks on two separate Security Council statements to rebuke Pyongyang was China’s demand for removal of key words such as “condemn” and “violation.”