PYONGYANG, North Korea — South Korea insisted it would conduct live-fire artillery exercises today, escalating the possibility of a military confrontation with the North even as U.S. officials continued emergency meetings in the North Korean capital for a third day.
The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, ended an all-day emergency session Sunday with no statement on the situation, unable to call on the South to halt its exercises because the members could not agree on how to refer to the North's shelling of a South Korean island last month. China opposed the majority of the other Security Council members over whether there would be a specific condemnation of the North.
Yeonpyeong Island was fired on when the South was conducting similar exercises. It is a garrison island that is also home to a fishing village. Two South Korean civilians and two South Korean service members died, fomenting a rare surge of popular demands for revenge in the South.
The North considers the waters around Yeonpyeong and four other nearby islands to be its territory. The government has promised to respond fiercely if the South fires into those waters, no matter which direction the guns aim. About two dozen U.S. military personnel were expected to take part in the artillery drill, in support roles and as observers. The North said Americans were being used as a "human shield."
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former U.S. envoy to North Korea, was to meet today with the North Korean vice president and members of the Foreign Ministry. Over the weekend, he met with military officials to propose measures to increase international communication. His trip was approved by the State Department, although he stressed he was not an official administration envoy.
While Russia and China called on Seoul to hold off on the drills, the U.N. Security Council proved unable to agree on a statement. Russia, which called the special Sunday session, released a text noting the "dangerous aggravation" on the Korean Peninsula. South Korea's allies, including the United States, Britain, France and Japan, considered that a veiled criticism of Seoul's continued military maneuvers. China endorsed the Russian position.