S.Korea says location of war games undecided

South Korea and the United States are still deciding where to hold a joint naval exercise intended as a warning to North Korea, the defence ministry said Monday, after China protested at the drill.

The two allies are planning the exercise as a show of strength after blaming the North for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, an incident that has sharply raised tensions on the peninsula.

The drill, originally set for last month in the Yellow Sea, was delayed until after the UN Security Council considered the sinking of the Cheonan, which cost the lives of 46 sailors.

In a statement on Friday, the council condemned the attack but did not specify who was to blame. The North denies involvement.

South Korean naval vessels stage an anti-submarine exercise. South Korea and the United States are still deciding where to hold a joint naval exercise intended as a warning to North Korea, the defence ministry said Monday

China, which resisted any condemnation of its ally the North, last week expressed "serious concerns" at the war games.

"We are firmly opposed to foreign military vessels engaging in activities that undermine China's security interests in the Yellow Sea or waters close to China," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

A Seoul defence ministry spokesman said South Korea and the US are "fine-tuning the timetable, scale and location" of the manoeuvres.

Yonhap news agency, quoting a government source, has said Seoul is considering moving the venue to its south or east coasts rather than the sensitive Yellow Sea.

North Korea has described the UN statement as a "great diplomatic victory" and reiterated conditional willingness to return to stalled international nuclear disarmament negotiations.

Analysts say it appears to be seeking a way out of the months-long confrontation over the sinking.

South Korea has also professed itself satisfied with the statement, but has said the North should apologise for the warship attack and show a commitment to denuclearisation.

The naval exercise is not intended to raise tensions but as a precaution against any future provocations by Pyongyang, said foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-Sun.

Asked at a briefing if the UN statement marked closure of the warship incident, Kim said this hinged on the North's actions and attitude.

"Reflecting the seriousness of the Cheonan incident, we expect North Korea to respect the statement and to take more responsible actions towards international society."

AFP

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