N.Korea says S.Korea, US trying to spark warSeoul (AFP) Dec 20, 2010 - North Korea Monday accused the United States and South Korean "puppet warmongers" of pushing the peninsula to the brink of war, as Seoul prepared to hold a live-fire drill despite Pyongyang's threat of retaliation. "It is a vital task for defusing the ever-increasing danger of a war and protecting the nation's destiny to avert a war and defend peace," said ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, referring to Koreans on both sides of the border. The North last month bombarded Yeonpyeong island near the contested Yellow Sea border, killing two marines and two civilians and damaging dozens of homes.
It says it acted in response to a South Korean artillery drill, and has vowed to hit back harder if a new exercise is held on the island this week. The response "will be deadlier than what was made on November 23 in terms of the powerfulness and sphere of the strike", its military said Friday. Rodong Sinmun Monday repeated allegations that the South had provoked last month's shelling. "Only when all the Koreans get united as one and wage a bold struggle for defending peace against war, can they surely check and frustrate the moves of outside forces and the puppet warmongers to provoke a new war," it said.
S.Korea launches crackdown on illegal Chinese fishingSeoul (AFP) Dec 20, 2010 - South Korea's coastguard Monday announced a new crackdown on illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea following a deadly clash with Chinese fishermen last week. The three-day exercise involves 18 ships, two helicopters and about 200 personnel, a coastguard spokesman told AFP. "We are taking strong steps as illegal fishing by Chinese boats is rampant despite our persistent crackdowns," he said. A 63-tonne Chinese boat capsized after ramming into a 3,000-tonne South Korean coastguard ship Saturday, leaving one Chinese crew member dead and another missing. Eight other Chinese fishermen were rescued, five of them by nearby Chinese boats.
"Three fishermen rescued by our side are in our custody for questioning," the spokesman said. He said the Chinese crew brandished iron pipes, clubs and shovels when two South Korean small boats from the 3,000-tonne ship approached their trawler, injuring four officers. The trawler then suddenly rammed into the coastguard ship and capsized, causing 10 Chinese sailors to fall into the sea, he said. The trawler's 28-year-old captain was in a coma after the incident and died in hospital. Illegal fishing by Chinese vessels is common in South Korean waters. The coastguard said 332 Chinese boats were caught last year. In 2008 a South Korean officer drowned while trying to inspect a Chinese boat, and 10 officers have been injured this year.
Seoul (AFP) Dec 20, 2010 North Korea has agreed with US troubleshooter Bill Richardson to permit the return of UN nuclear inspectors as part of a package of measures to ease tensions on the peninsula, CNN reported Monday. CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, who is travelling with Richardson in Pyongyang, said the North Koreans had agreed to let inspectors from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency go back to its Yongbyon nuclear facility.
They had also agreed to allow fuel rods for the enrichment of uranium to be shipped to an outside country, and to the creation of a military commission and hotline between the two Koreas and the United States, Blitzer said.
A veteran negotiator with the reclusive communist state, New Mexico Governor Richardson was due to brief reporters in Beijing later Monday after concluding his five-day visit to Pyongyang.
The former US ambassador to the UN was said by Blitzer to be "disappointed" at the UN Security Council's failure late Sunday to agree a statement on the Korean situation.
Richardson believed that such a statement would have given the South Koreans "political cover" to cancel a planned live-fire military exercise on a flashpoint border island bombarded by North Korea last month, Blitzer said.
North Korea in April 2009 pulled out of six-nation nuclear disarmament talks and ordered US and IAEA nuclear inspectors out of the country, after the UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang for an April 5 rocket launch.
It staged its second nuclear test a month later.
Tensions have soared anew since last month's North Korean artillery attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, which killed four people including civilians and damaged dozens of homes.
The South's forces were due to start the live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong later Monday, despite North Korean threats of deadly retaliation. But heavy fog had caused the drill to be delayed, South Korean officials said.
Richardson had urged top North Korean leaders to show "maximum restraint" over the planned South Korean drills.
In Pyongyang over the weekend, Richardson met top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan and Major General Pak Rim-Su, who leads North Korean forces along the tense border with the South.
Pak told Richardson that North Korea had recovered the remains of several hundred US servicemen killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War and offered to help secure their return to the United States, CNN said.