S Korean minister quits over conflict

S Korean minister quits over conflict
# 25 November 2010 19:53 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has quit his post under fierce criticism over the army’s "soft" reaction to an artillery exchange with North Korea earlier this week, APA reports quoting Press TV.

“President Lee Myung-bak has decided this afternoon to accept Kim’s resignation offer,” state-run Yonhap news agency quoted presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee as saying in a press briefing in Seoul on Thursday.

Kim, who has been reprimanded for the military’s failure to monitor North Korea’s cross-border activities, tendered his resignation earlier in the day.

The military also under fire for its inadequate response to the artillery exchange between the two neighbors.

His resignation comes just two days after North Korea’s artillery attack on the small island of Yeonpyeong. Four people -- two South Korean marines and two construction workers -- lost their lives and several others were injured. Many homes were also set ablaze by the strike.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the South’s live-fire exercises in areas near Yeonpyeong prompted North Korea’s response, the North’s official news agency reported.

Pyongyang has also blamed the US for provoking the artillery exchange between the two sides.

The populated Yeonpyeong Island, located in the Yellow Sea, has long been a flash point between Seoul and Pyongyang.

Kim in May publicly expressed his intention to step down after the 1,200-ton South Korean Cheonan warship sank near the inter-Korea maritime border on March 26.

The tragic incident led to the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors.

Seoul accuses Pyongyang of involvement in the sinking of its warship. Pyongyang however says aluminum alloy fragments recovered by South Korea prove that no North Korean torpedo was involved in the maritime accident.

Meanwhile, South Korean military has also decided to strengthen its force on five islands close to North Korea as a measure to prevent the situation from escalating in the event of an armed clash, The Korea Times newspaper reported.

The report added that Seoul plans to engage in active diplomacy with the United States, China, and countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula to seek punitive action against Pyongyang for Tuesday’s artillery attack on the Yeonpyeong Island.

Almost half a million South Koreans died as a result of the 1950-1953 Korean War. North Korea suffered 290,000 casualties in the conflict, according to data from official Chinese sources.

The war ended in an armistice, with neither side being able to claim outright victory.

In the three years of fighting, 1,263 men of the Commonwealth forces were killed and a further 4,817 were wounded, while the US lost 33,000 men.

Australian casualties numbered more than 1,500, of whom 339 were killed.
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