S.Korea drill risks Korean tension escalation: Russia

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South Korea's decision to hold a live-fire drill on a border island risks escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, a Russian foreign ministry source told the Interfax news agency on Monday.

"The peninsula has been on the verge of armed conflict and therefore all sides should show maximum restraint and not permit actions that could spark a further escalation of tensions," the official said.

"We do not consider that holding a drill meets this objective, especially with the use of live fire," the official added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the situation on the Korean peninsula "very heated" in comments to journalists on Monday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

South Korea on Monday staged a live-fire military exercise on the border island of Yeonpyeong in a reaction after North Korea shelled the island on November 23, leaving four people dead including two civilians.

Russia and Chinese foreign ministers on Sunday had called for both sides to show restraint and not commit actions that could provoke armed conflict.

Lavrov on Monday said that Russia regretted the failure of the United Nations Security Council to agree a statement on the situation on the Korean peninsula during talks on Sunday.

The talks did not end with a statement "to our regret," Lavrov said in remarks to journalists, adding that he felt the talks nevertheless firmly stated the need for restraint.

"The signal was quite clear of the need to avoid all provocative acts that could destabilise the situation," Lavrov said.

At Security Council talks, China rejected a number of draft statements condemning the loss of lives during the shelling on November 23, including one proposed by Russia that did not mention North Korea by name, diplomats said.

© 2010 AFP

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