S.Korea Starts Exercise, Obama Urges China to Curb Pyongyang

South Korea's military began a major live-fire exercise Monday amid high tensions sparked by North Korea's deadly bombardment last month, as Washington pressed Beijing to curb its unruly ally Pyongyang.

The South, smarting over the unprecedented shelling of a civilian area, dismissed claims by the North that the five-day drill could spark war.

The land, sea and air firing exercise follows last week's major show of naval strength by Seoul and its close ally Washington, designed to deter Pyongyang from future attacks.

U.S. President Barack Obama in a telephone call late Sunday urged his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to send "a clear message" to the North that its shelling of South Korean territory and other provocations must end.

Obama urged China to work with the United States and other countries "to send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable,” a White House statement said.

The North's bombardment, the first of civilian areas in the South since the 1950-1953 war, came less than two weeks after it put a new and apparently operational uranium enrichment plant on show to U.S. visitors.

The North says the plant is for peaceful purposes. But U.S. experts and officials say it could easily be reconfigured to make weapons-grade uranium to supplement an existing plutonium stockpile.(AFP)

Source: Agence France Presse

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