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Alarm bells ring as Koreas clash; markets crash

world Updated: Nov 24, 2010 01:02 IST

A sudden North Korean artillery attack on South Korea on Tuesday that killed two soldiers triggered economic ripples that touched India and a round of international condemnation against the Pyongyang regime. It also inspired a joint US-China call for “restraint” and the undesirability of the North Korean shelling.

In one of the worst outbreaks of violence along the border dividing the two countries since the Korean war ended in 1953, North Korea fired at least 200 shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two soldiers, wounding 18 South Koreans and setting dozens of houses on fire. South Korea returned fire and deployed a fighter aircraft.

Largely due to this crisis, the Sensex joined stock markets around the world and shed over 600 points by late afternoon. It recovered to close 266 points down at the end of the day.

A French diplomat was quoted as saying that a UN Security Council “emergency session is being organized” in the next few days to discuss the crisis.

Condemning the attack, the US said it was prepared to defend its South Korean ally.

Despite being a few weeks away from assuming a non-permanent seat on the UNSC, India was noncommittal, saying only that it had “taken notice of the situation” and would respond in due course.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak, said, “Indiscriminate attacks on civilians are unpardonable.”

North Korea was blamed in March for sinking a South Korean warship, killing 46 on board.

A few days ago, it revealed a new, secret uranium facility to visiting US scientists. The rogue regime’s provocations may be tied to its domestic succession crisis and part of a strategy to force the US to restart the six-party talks that include the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia.

The US says it cannot join such talks given Pyongyang’s behaviour while China argues talks will curtail such acts.