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South Korea vows 'enormous retaliation' against North's attack (WRAPUP 3)

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday ordered to punish North Korea's shelling of one of the South's border islands "through action," in a bid to prevent further provocation.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday ordered to punish North Korea's shelling of one of the South's border islands "through action," in a bid to prevent further provocation.

"Enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again," the South's Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak as saying in the headquarters of the country's joint chief of staff in Seoul.

North Korea opened artillery fire on the South's Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea at 14:34 local time (05:34 GMT) on Tuesday, killing at least two South Korean marines. Sixteen others were injured, along with 3 civilians.

The South immediately fired back.

Pyongyang accused Seoul of striking first. The South said it had been conducting military exercises but artillery fire was not directed at the North.

"The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory. In particular, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are a grave matter," the South's president said.

"Reckless attacks on South Korean civilians are not tolerable, especially when South Korea is providing North Korea with humanitarian aid," Lee went on.

He said a military response is necessary. "Our military should show this through action," he added.

"Given that North Korea maintains an offensive posture, I think the Army, the Navy and the Air Force should unite and retaliate against [the North's] provocation with multiple-fold firepower," Lee said.


Western powers have condemned the attack but warned against further escalation.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was "one of the gravest incidents since the end of the Korean War" more than half a century ago. He said he was "deeply concerned" by the incident and called for "immediate restraint."

Russia called on both Koreas to refrain from the use of force.

"Russia firmly condemns any show of force...all disputes should be settled by exclusively political-diplomatic means," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It also urged both sides to "show restraint and not permit actions that could lead to the escalation of the military conflict on the Korean peninsula."


However, North Korea claimed its forces had responded to a South Korean attack, the North Korean Central News Agency said.

"Despite our persistent warnings, South Korea fired dozens of shells from 1 pm local time [04:00 GMT] and we immediately retaliated with military force," the agency said.

A spokesman for the South's joint chief of staff said "scores of rounds" were fired by the North. South Korean military retaliated by firing some 80 artillery rounds, Yonhap said.

Tuesday's exchange of fire came amid South Korea's drills.

"Our army was carrying out military training, and there was a telegram from North Korea with a protest and questioning whether this was an attack," Yonhap quoted the spokesman as saying.

He did not rule out that the North's shelling was a response to the drills.


The South Korean military is on its highest non-war alert and the Air Force has deployed fighter jets to the island.

Yonhap said Seoul was considering the evacuation of its nationals currently in North Korea.

The attack is the second incident in the tense Yellow Sea border area this year. In March, a North Korean submarine was alleged to have torpedoed a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, causing the loss of 46 lives. An international investigation said the North was to blame, but the reclusive regime denied involvement.

North and South Korea remain technically at war, since no peace treaty was signed following the Korean War in 1953. The Demilitarized Zone between the countries is the most heavily armed border in the world.

The latest attack comes after the revelation that the North has created a new uranium enrichment facility.

Despite the development, South Korea will not seek the return of U.S. tactical nuclear missiles over fears that the move could scupper international efforts to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear program, the South Korean deputy defense minister said Chang Kwang-il.

SEOUL, November 23 (RIA Novosti)

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