N.Korea blames South over attacks, says ready to fire again

SEOUL, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) - North Korea again blamed the rival South for provoking a deadly artillery attack on a border island and warned that it stood ready to strike once more.

The country, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said it fired a barrage of shells Tuesday because South Korea's military had failed to call off a military exercise in disputed waters.

"The DPRK that sets store by the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula is now exercising superhuman self-control, but the artillery pieces of the army of the DPRK, the defender of justice, remain ready to fire," a government statement released late Wednesday said.

North Korea killed at least four people when it fired 80 shells on to Yeonpyeong island, which lies near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Pyongyang does not accept the UN demarcation line running through maritime territories which was drawn after the 1950-53 Korean war.

In a statement attributed to a foreign ministry spokesman, the North reiterated its case that Seoul provoked the attack by carrying out live-fire exercises on the island that sent shells into waters claimed by the North.

"The enemy fired shells from the islet which is so close to the territory of the DPRK that it is within each other's eyeshot," it said.

"This powder-reeking sabre-rattling cannot be construed otherwise than a politically motivated provocation."

North Korea said that when South Korea went ahead with the exercise after repeated requests to halt it, it was forced to retaliate.

"The army of the DPRK (North Korea) took such a self-defensive measure as making a prompt powerful strike at the artillery positions from which the enemy fired the shells as it does not make an empty talk," it said.

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