Security Council meets on Korea tensions
UNITED NATIONS—The U.N. Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Russia called for the meeting and diplomats say Moscow wants the U.N.'s most powerful body to adopt a statement Sunday calling on both North and South Korea to exercise maximum restraint.
The North has warned of "catastrophe" if the South goes ahead with plans to conduct one-day, live-fire drills by Tuesday on the same front-line island the North shelled last month as the South conducted a similar exercise.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called Saturday for diplomatic action to reduce tensions between the two Koreas.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea (AP) -- A U.S. governor visiting North Korea has called for it to show maximum restraint to planned South Korean military drills and hopes the U.N. Security Council will deliver the same message in its emergency meeting.
A frequent unofficial envoy to the reclusive country, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has held three important meetings with top leaders in North Korea's foreign ministry and military during his four-day visit.
"I hope that the U.N. Security Council will pass a strong resolution calling for self-restraint from all sides in order to seek peaceful means to resolve this dispute," Richardson said in a statement released by his U.S. office late Saturday. "A U.N. resolution could provide cover for all sides that prevents aggressive military action."
South Korea's military plans to conduct one-day, live-fire drills by Tuesday on the same front-line island the North shelled last month as the South conducted a similar exercise. The North warned the drills would cause it to strike back harder than it did last month, when four people were killed on Yeonpyeong Island.
North Korea raised military readiness of its artillery unit along the west coast, Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified South Korean government official.
The official said some fighter jets that had been inside the air force hangar in the west coast also came out to the ground, Yonhap said.
A Defense Ministry official declined to confirm the report, citing the issue's sensitivity. He asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.
The military will hold the drills on Monday if weather permits, the official said, without elaborating.
The high tensions prompted the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to schedule an emergency meeting at Russia's request.
The North's Foreign Ministry said Saturday that South Korea would face "catastrophe" if the drills take place, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea says the drills are routine, defensive in nature and should not be considered threatening. The U.S. supports that and says any country has a right to train for self-defense. But Russia and China, fellow permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have expressed concern.
Russia's Foreign Ministry has urged South Korea to cancel to avoid escalating tensions.
The Security Council scheduled emergency consultations on North Korea for 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) Sunday at Russia's request, said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The United States holds the council's rotating presidency this month.
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal said a number of consultations are planned for early Sunday New York time. Austrian U.N. Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting will call for a de-escalation of tensions on the peninsula, said Launsky-Tieffenthal.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Russian government believes the Security Council must send "a restraining signal" to North Korea and South Korea and help launch diplomatic actions to resolve all disputes on the peninsula.
China, the North's key ally, has said it is "unambiguously opposed" to any acts that could worsen already-high tensions.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, called for restraint from all parties concerned to avoid escalation, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Marines carrying rifles conducted routine patrols Sunday. About 240 residents, officials and journalists remain on Yeonpyeong, said Lim Byung-chan, an official from Ongjin County, which governs the island. He said there is no immediate plan to order a mandatory evacuation to the mainland.
Amid security jitters, nearly 800 out of 1,300 civilians living on the island moved to unsold apartments in Gimpo, west of Seoul, on Sunday, according to Ongjin County officials.
Several bloody naval skirmishes occurred along the western sea border in recent years, but last month's assault was the first by the North to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North does not recognize the U.N.-drawn sea border in the area.
The North claims South Korea fired artillery toward its territorial waters before it unleashed shells on the island on Nov. 23, while the South says it launched shells southward, not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.
Kim reported from Seoul. Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, David Nowak in Moscow, Veronika Oleksyn in Vienna and AP Television News cameraman Kim Yong-ho on Yeonpyeong Island contributed to this report.