Image: Woman on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea
Lee Jin-man  /  AP
A woman walks amid destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, on Thursday.
msnbc.com news services
updated 11/25/2010 11:53:19 AM ET 2010-11-25T16:53:19

China expressed concern on Thursday about joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the Yellow Sea while North Korea threatened more attacks on the wealthy South if there are more "provocations."

Seoul said it would increase troops on islands near North Korea following Tuesday's bombardment of one of its small islands by Pyongyang's artillery, which has caused a sharp spike in tension.

Washington is putting increasing pressure on China to rein in North Korea, but a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said reviving the stalled six-party talks involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States was urgently needed.

Video: N. Korea showing no signs of regret (on this page)

"We have noted the relevant reports and express our concern about this," spokesman Hong Lei said, referring to the joint military exercises and the involvement of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the drill.

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But Beijing has previously used stronger language to signal its displeasure. In August, the People's Liberation Army said earlier plans to send the George Washington to the Yellow Sea threatened long-term damage to Sino-U.S. relations.

Earlier, Seoul and Washington ratcheted up the pressure on China to use its influence on ally North Korea to ease soaring tensions after an exchange of fire left four South Koreans dead — including two civilians. China has urged both sides to show restraint.

The previously scheduled U.S.-South Korean drills set to begin Sunday are sure to infuriate North Korea.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young also resigned Thursday in the wake of criticism of the country's response to the attack. The presidential Blue House confirmed the resignation had been accepted.

Video: S. Korean defense minister resigns (on this page)

'Warmongers'
There was no let-up in the typically bellicose language used by North Korea.

"(North Korea) will wage second and even third rounds of attacks without any hesitation, if warmongers in South Korea make reckless military provocations again," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a statement from the military as saying.

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"The U.S. cannot evade the blame for the recent shelling," it added. "If the U.S. truly desires detente on the Korean peninsula, it should not thoughtlessly shelter the South Korean puppet forces but strictly control them so that they may not commit any more adventurous military provocations."

South Korean media reports said Tuesday's artillery attack was likely personally ordered by reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

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Kim and his son and designated heir, Jong Un, visited the Yellow Sea coastal artillery base from where shells were fired at a South Korean island near the disputed maritime boundary just hours before the attack, newspapers in Seoul said.

Yeonpyeong Island, home to military bases as well a fishing community of 1,300 residents, looked like a war zone Thursday, with homes and shops completely flattened and the streets strewn with blackened rubble, mangled window frames and shattered glass.

Hundreds of residents have already fled the devastation for the mainland, but a few were still rooting around the rubble looking for personal belongings and spending cold nights in underground shelters.

Hong said that South Korea will boost ground troops on Yeonpyeong and four other islands in western waters in response to this week's attack, reversing a 2006 decision calling for an eventual decrease. He declined to discuss specifics for the increase, but said troops there currently amount to about 4,000.

His comments came as South Korea's defense chief visited the island, located about 50 miles from the port of Incheon west of Seoul but just 7 miles from North Korean shores.

Video: U.S. pressures China to stop N. Korean aggression (on this page)

The military was analyzing debris from North Korea's artillery and has not ruled out North Korea's use of thermobaric bombs, which burn more violently and increase casualties and property destruction, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. He asked not to be identified, saying he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The two Koreas are required to abide by an armistice signed at the close of the three-year war, but the North does not recognize the maritime line drawn by U.N. forces in 1953 and considers South Korean maneuvers near Yeonpyeong island a violation of its territory.

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The attack added to animosity from the March sinking of a South Korean warship in nearby waters that killed 46 sailors in the worst military attack on the nation since the Korean War.

Skirmishes occur from time to time around the sea border, but Tuesday's attack was the first to target civilians and raised concerns about escalating hostilities leading to another war.

South Korea says its artillery exercises Tuesday were aimed away from North Korea, and a top military official on the island Thursday showed reporters a trajectory heading to the southwest.

"North Korea argues that we fired at them first, but this is the direction that we fired," Lt. Gen. Joo Jong-hwa said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: S. Korean defense minister resigns

  1. Closed captioning of: S. Korean defense minister resigns

    >>> korea. south korea 's defense minister resigned today amid intense criticism. this action comes two days after the artillery attack that killed four people on a small island . critics have been charging that south korea was unprepared for tuesday's attack and that the dpovt was slow to respond. richard engineel joins us from the mainland, just across from the attacked island and with me here in studio is dr. steven nerper. i want to say thanks to both of you for joining us and happy thanksgiving. richard , let's talk about what's taking place there and the word we're hearing about this person resigning.

    >> there's a lot of pressure here and of course, happy thanksgiving, on the korean government . people in korea were very scared what happened on tuesday. this was the first time that civilians have been caught up in cross border violence in this country in a long time and they are worried that there could be more incidents like this to come. already, north korea has said, if it has to respond to south korean provocative acts, that it will respond again with military measure attacking south korean targets, south korea taking the opposite stance saying it was attacked in an unprovoked manner. what happened was and this was according to to a senior official. on tuesday, the south korean military was conducting a military exercise . this was something third-degrat had been announced, it was nationwide. during this exercise, the marines were conducting a live fire exercise where you fire artillery. the north koreans thought that the artillery crossed into their territorial waters and responded by firing and this is what's different, on both military and civilian targets in south korea . the situation here remains tense and people wanted answers and the first victim of that was the defense minister .

    >> doctor, when you hear what richard is saying, can you explain to us what is it that north korea wants? if they're hearing that south koreaens were practicing an exercise, what is north korea showing to south korea and the world by the action that it took?

    >> north korea is trying to push the line with a couple of different priorities. one is they're trying to signal their leadership transition is consolidating under the third son of the current leader, kim jong -il. secondly, they're trying to test south korea to resolve and to really see where the south korean red line is and to create a test for the south korean public. thirdly, they're trying to up the ante with the united states so they appear to have their strongest suit at the negotiating table. they did this earlier in the week by showing centrifuges. if you go back to the spring and the sinking of the south korean vessel, they really are trying to instigate to the extent they want to see what the resolve is.

    >> this is the worst soil strike since the korean war since i believe 1953 , explain the south korean people are willing or trying to communicate with their leader to say we need to stand up for ourselves. here, the u.s. state department is urging south korea to not say anything provocative, to not do anything in retaliation. so, how is there a divide or is there between the people of south korea and their leadership?

    >> there's a frustration on the ground among many koreans because they don't necessarily want to see a war with the north. they have a lot more to lose than the north does. south korea is a very wealthy country. a lot of neighborhoods look like they do in manhattan, so if they were to suddenly get involved in an exchange of missiles with the north, is south would have a great deal to lose. if you could imagine the united states getting into a conflict where there are skud missiles reigning down on manhattan. there is that sense of frustration. they want the north to stop acting, to stop carrying out these acts, but they don't know how to put pressure on it. that's why they're relying particularly on the united states and this weekend, the united states is sending a warships to the region as a show of force, be cruising not far from where this incident took place, to send a message to north korea that the south and the united states will not stand idly by while it lobs missiles into civilian areas and to send a message to china that the united states will increase its presence in the east asia unless china does more to try reign in north korea .

    >> we're looking at images of the u.s.s. george washington moving into the area. doctor, explain why this is so pivotal?

    >> the united states has pushed china for a more active role, but it's important not to overstate china's role in this case. the north koreas are independent. they want stability on their northeastern flank and are at a real strategic disadvantage. it's a very difficult strategic reality for all of the partners and players in the area. china's very concerned to see a u.s. carrier in its yellow sea and the west sea off korea , so they are watching closely and urging negotiation, but the white house is calling on china to do more to pressure and create the leverage where it can.

    >> dor tok, i want to thank you for joining us

Interactive: North Korea attack

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Photos: Tension in the Koreas

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  1. A South Korean border guard mans a post through a fence draped with re-unification ribbons near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, on Dec. 22, 2010. South Korea vowed Wednesday to "punish the enemy" as hundreds of troops, fighter jets, tanks and attack helicopters prepared massive new drills near the heavily armed border a month after a deadly North Korean artillery attack. (Wally Santana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A North Korean defector takes part in a candle light vigil on the eve of the one month anniversary of the North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island in downtown Seoul, South Korea, on Dec. 22. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A combination of photos shows North Korean soldiers taking part in a shooting exercise at a field in Kaepoong county, on the north side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, in this picture taken from south of the DMZ in Paju, about 31 miles north of Seoul, on Dec. 22. (Jo Yong-hak / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. South Korean soldiers patrol a seashore in Dangjin, about 120 km 75 miles south of Seoul on December 21. (Yonhap / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Bae Bok-soon (R), an older sister of Bae Bok-chul, cries during the funeral for the two civilians who died when North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, in Incheon, west of Seoul on De. 6. (Jo Yong-hak / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Crew members watch as an F/A-18E Super Hornet lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington during a naval exercise with South Korea in the Yellow Sea on Tuesday, Nov. 30. The drills come amid heightened tension in the region after a North Korean artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong island last week. (Park Ji-hwan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Staff watch radar screens in the Combat Direction Center on the USS George Washington during the military drills off South Korea. (Wally Santana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Former South Korean special agents whose mission was to infiltrate North Korea, sing a military song during a rally on the Yeonpyeong island, South Korea. About 85 former agents, who criticized the North's attack and urged the South Korean government to punish Pyongyang, landed the island Nov. 30 and said they would stay for a week to help with reconstruction. (Lee Jin-man / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. South Korean marines await navy ships carrying military equipment on Yeonpyeong island on Tuesday, Nov. 30. (Yonhap / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. North Korean defectors and anti-North Korea activists release balloons for North Korea containing $1,000 in $1 notes and anti-North Korean leaflets in Paju, north of Seoul. (Jo Yong-hak / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. South Korean middle school students learn how to use a gas mask in a mock chemical attack in Seoul. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. During a rally denouncing last week's bombardment, Korea Freedom Federation members shout outside the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Nov. 29. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. South Korean marines watch President Lee Myung-Bak's news conference on a television minitor on Yeonpyeong island on Nov. 29. Lee condemned North Korea's recent shelling of the South Korean border island, calling an attack against civilians an "inhumane" crime. (Jeon Heon-Kyun / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. South Korean ships stage off the coast of South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 28 as war drills by the United States and South Korea began. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. South Korean protesters hold candles during a rally in Seoul opposing the military exercise between South Korea and the United States. (Park Ji-hwan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. South Korean women take cover inside a bomb shelter on Yeonpyeong Island after authorities sounded the alarm over a possible North Korean rocket attack on Nov. 28. It proved to be a false alarm. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. A North Korean soldier, right, looks back as she and another soldier patrol on a pathway along the bank of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, North Korea, Nov. 28. (Andy Wong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A South Korean police car is reflected in the shattered glass of a restaurant window along a seaside road on Yeonpyeong island on Nov. 27. (David Guttenfelder / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Former South Korean marines burn images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, right, and his son Kim Jong Un, during a rally Nov. 27 in Seoul. (Wally Santana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Kim Oh-bock, mother of Seo Jung-woo, a South Korean marine killed in the Nov. 23 North Korean bombardment, cries as she holds his casket during a funeral service Nov. 27 at a military hospital in Seongnam. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. South Korean marines carry flag-draped caskets of two comrades during a funeral service Nov. 27 in Seongnam. (Ahn Young-joon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The mother of South Korean marine Moon Kwang-wook, another marine killed by North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island, cries Nov. 27 at her son's funeral. (Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. South Korean protesters denouncing North Korean attack on an island close to the border between the two nations burn a North Korean flag in Seoul on Nov. 24. After North Korea's strike, South Korea and the United States said they would launch four-day naval exercises in the Yellow Sea involving an American aircraft carrier. (Jung Yeon-Je / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. South Korean protesters trample on a picture of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il in Seoul on Nov. 24. (Wally Santana / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A Buddhist monk shouts slogans with protesters at a rally denouncing North Korea in Seoul on Nov. 24. (Truth Leem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A man walks past a house wrecked by artillery shells fired by North Korea on Yeonpyeong island, Nov. 24. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Destroyed houses are seen on Yeonpyeong island on Nov. 24. (Dong-A Ilbo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. South Korean survivors react upon their arrival at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea on Nov. 24. (Lee Jin-man / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A destroyed house is seen on Nov. 24 after it was hit by artillery shells fired by North Korea on Yeonpyeong Island. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. South Korean marines, who were injured when North Korean artillery shelled Yeonpyeong island, sit on beds at a military hospital in Seongnam on Nov. 24. (Yonhap / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. South Korean residents take shelter from North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, Nov. 24. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. People stand near destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, Nov. 24. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. South Korean police officers load relief supplies for villagers of Yeonpyeong Island, at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 24. (Lee Jin-man / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. South Korean residents take shelter from North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong island on Nov. 23. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. South Korean Red Cross workers load relief supplies bound for Yeonpyeong Island at a port in Incheon, west of Seoul, Nov. 24. (Yonhap / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A resident of the Yeonpyeong Island arrives at Incheon port, South Korea, on Nov. 23. (Kim Chul-soo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. A picture taken off television shows the moment of impact of one of the artillery shells fired by North Korea onto the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. (Reuters TV) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. This picture taken by a South Korean tourist shows huge plumes of smoke rising from Yeonpyeong Island in the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on Nov. 23. North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto the South Korean island, killing two people, setting homes ablaze and triggering retaliatory fire by the South. It was one of the most serious clashes between the two sides in decades. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
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    Above: Slideshow (38) Tension in the Koreas
  2. ARCHIVES : KIM IL SUNG AND KIM JONG IL
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    Slideshow (36) The life of Kim Jong ll - Kim Jong Il through the years
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    Slideshow (42) The life of Kim Jong ll - World reacts
  4. Slideshow (25) Daily life in North Korea

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