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Sunday, December 19, 2010

South Korea orders residents to take shelter in anticipation of drills

South Korea ordered residents of Yeonpyeong Island and four border islands to take shelter Monday in preparation of military exercises on the same day an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council ended with no unified statement on the controversial issue.

The drills have raised fears of a new conflict with North Korea.

An approximate 8,000 residents have been ordered to take cover in Yeonpyeong, Baengnyeong, Daecheong, Socheong and Udo.Typical protocol is for the drills to begin two hours after the notification of residents, though the country's military declined to confirm the exact timing of the scheduled exercises.

North Korea said over the weekend that the planned exercises were designed to violate the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 and "ignite war at any cost." At the United Nations, nearly eight hours of emergency Security Council talks on the standoff ended Sunday without a unified statement, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

Russia called for the emergency session over the weekend to defuse the crisis over South Korea's scheduled live-fire military exercises off Yeonpyeong Island, which was shelled by North Korea in November. Churkin warned darkly that the world could be faced with a "serious conflict" within hours, and that the international community has "no game plan on the diplomatic side."

"Within hours there may be a serious aggravation of tension -- a serious conflict, for that matter," he said. (Continues here at Reuters)

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