Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday instructed his Cabinet ministers to stay on alert as South Korean military conducted a live-fire exercise near an inter-Korean border island shelled by North Korea on November 23, despite North Korea’s threats of a military response.
At a meeting with relevant ministers, including Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, Kan also ordered them to ensure the safety of the Japanese people.
Speaking to a press conference after the meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku backed South Korea on the planned drill and urged North Korea not to take provocative action. “South Korea has the right to make its own decisions on conducting ordinary military drills,” the top government spokesman said, adding, “We strongly hope that North Korea will not use this drill as an excuse and take provocative action.”
On Monday, the South Korean military began a planned live-fire drill near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea that the North bombed on November 23.
Pyongyang has warned it would respond to the South’s artillery drill on the island with “unpredictable self-defensive blows,” sparking fears of a recurrence of last month’s shelling that devastated the fishing village, killing four people, including two civilians.