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Diplomats try to head off hostilities in Koreas

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Diplomats try to head off hostilities in Koreas

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Seoul, South Korea – Diplomats worked to ease tensions in the Koreas today after North Korea warned of unpredictable “consequences” if the United States fulfills its vow of deploying an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea for joint military maneuvers with South Korea.
China’s foreign minister spoke with his Russian, U.S., and Japanese counterparts, and a Chinese representative visited Seoul as envoys underscored the need to lower the temperature in the longtime flash-point region, days after four South Koreans died when North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island.
North Korea said the South provoked the Tuesday attack because shells from a South Korean military drill landed in the North’s waters. South Korea was holding its annual Hoguk military drill when the North started its shelling, and the South returned fire.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday slammed South Korea and the United States for provoking the crisis.
It called reports of civilian casualties part of South Korea’s “propaganda campaign” and accused the “enemy” of creating “a human shield by deploying civilians around artillery positions and inside military facilities before the launch of the provocation.”
“If the U.S. brings its carrier to the West Sea of Korea at last, no one can predict the ensuing consequences,” said KCNA, referring to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is set to join South Korea’s forces near the coasts of China and North Korea in a four-day military drill that starts Sunday.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson called the claims “outrageous.”
“This is just another example of North Korea’s own internal propaganda. The North Koreans for many years, including the Cheonan warship incident, have taken provocative action. This didn’t have anything to do with U.S. actions,” Thompson told CNN, referring to the sinking of a South Korean ship in March that left 46 people on board dead.
The United States and South Korea blame the sinking on the North, which has consistently denied responsibility.
Diplomats, seeking a lessening of tensions and a return to the six-party talks with North Korea over the country’s nuclear aspirations, busily labored to avert more hostilities. The United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea are the six countries that have been involved in the talks, which were put on hold in 2008.
“These parties should call on the DPRK and South Korea to exercise calmness and restraint and hold dialogue and make contacts, and not to take actions that would escalate the conflict,” China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi as saying. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner. (CNN)

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