After heavy fire, North is urged to halt use of force

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After heavy fire, North is urged to halt use of force

The international community - including member countries in the long-stalled six-party talks - was quick to urge Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations after North Korea on Thursday fired artillery rounds toward the South, leading Seoul to fire back.

Amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. State Department said it was “concerned” by North Korea’s firing of a projectile into South Korean territory and that Washington was “closely monitoring the situation.”

“Such provocative actions heighten tensions, and we call on Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security,” Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the JoongAng Ilbo in an email response on Friday.

She added that the United States, as an ally to Seoul, “will continue to coordinate closely with the [Republic of Korea]” in regard to Pyongyang.

Likewise, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated in a briefing Friday that Tokyo was very concerned over the situation.

“North Korea should exercise self-restraint in making provocative acts,” he continued.

“Together with the United States and South Korea, we will firmly demand North Korea to restrain itself,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also said at a press conference on the same day, underscoring the trilateral alliance between Washington and its two East Asian allies.

By contrast, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that both Koreas needed to exercise restraint. The ministry expressed “concern that North and South Korea exchanged fire” and urged “all sides to demonstrate the utmost restraint and refrain from any actions that can aggravate the situation.”

That includes the use of firearms.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately release a statement in response to escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.

However, Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Qiu Guohong said during a breakfast seminar on Friday that “I hope both the South and North exercise restraint,” adding that Beijing is opposed to “unilateral provocation from any side.”

Observers in Seoul pointed out that Beijing and Moscow showed a position more lenient toward Pyongyang.

Aside from the member states participating in the six-party talks to denuclearize North Korea - discussions that have stalled since Pyongyang walked out in late 2008 - the United Nations also voiced concern.

“We are closely following the developments with serious concern,” Eri Kaneko, a spokeswoman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said Thursday in response to the exchange of artillery fire. “We will revert as the situation evolves.”

On Thursday, North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song-nam, further requested in a letter to the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington. Pyongyang has fiercely opposed the drills.

The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian computer-simulated war games between U.S. and South Korean troops kicked off Monday and runs through next Friday.

North’s artillery fire was denounced in Seoul as well by both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) on Friday.

“We need to show that we will respond firmly to North Korea’s provocations to punish it without fail,” Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung said in a meeting with military officials on Friday.

“We need the will and resolution to end the vicious cycle of being led around by North Korea.”

NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in also responded to the situation in a party meeting at the National Assembly.

“Our military needs to respond firmly to North Korea’s use of force but objectively manage the situation to prevent the proliferation of a military clash,” he said.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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