South Korea and US in Joint Military Exercises Now

It’s on! US and South Korea began joint military exercises. AP via Yahoo News:

The sound of new artillery fire from North Korea just hours after the U.S. and South Korea launched a round of war games in Korean waters sent residents and journalists on a front-line island scrambling for cover Sunday.

None of the rounds landed on Yeonpyeong Island, military officials said, but South Korea’s Defense Ministry later warned journalists to leave the island. The incident showed how tense the situation remains along the Koreas’ disputed maritime border five days after a North Korean artillery attack decimated parts of the island and killed four South Koreans.

As the rhetoric from North Korea escalated, with new warnings of a “merciless” assault if further provoked, a top Chinese official made a last-minute visit to Seoul to confer with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Washington and Seoul have urged China, North Korea’s main ally and benefactor, to help defuse the situation amid fears of all-out war. Beijing has called for restraint on all sides.

Lee pressed State Councilor Dai Bingguo, a senior foreign policy adviser, to contribute to peace in a “more objective, responsible” matter, and warned that Seoul would respond “strongly” to any further provocation, his office said in a statement.

Dai forwarded Beijing’s condolences and pledged China’s help in preventing tensions from worsening, Lee’s office said.

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