S Korea and China defence chiefs to meet amid tension

Image caption,
Kim Kwan-jin was appointed South Korea's defence minister earlier this month

South Korean and Chinese defence ministers are to meet in Beijing in February amid rising tension on the Korean peninsula, Seoul has said.

It provided no details of the talks, but the two sides are expected to discuss what Seoul describes as North Korea's hostile acts in recent months.

These include the deadly shelling of a South Korean border island.

China, the North's only major ally, is facing mounting pressure to encourage Pyongyang to show more restraint.

TV boast

On Sunday, defence officials said that South Korea's Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie were organising talks in the Chinese capital in February, but added that details of the meeting agenda would be discussed later.

However, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a defence ministry official in Seoul as saying the two ministers would "discuss regional security issues like the North's attack on the Cheonan warship and bombing on Yeonpyeong island".

The official - who was not named - was referring to the sinking of the vessel and deaths of 46 sailors in March, which Seoul has said was a torpedo attack by Pyongyang, and also the shelling of the Yeonpyeong island last month that left four South Koreans dead.

Pyongyang denies the South's claim that it sank the warship. It also says its shelling of the island was retaliation for a South Korean firing drill that dropped shells into North Korean territory.

Earlier this week, Seoul and Pyongyang again traded strong rhetoric.

The North threatened a "sacred war" against the South, whose military had been holding live-fire drills near the border. In response, the South warned of a "powerful response" to any attack from the North.

On Friday, North Korea's state TV aired a programme in which North Korean soldiers boasted about the shelling of the South's island.

One soldier, named as Kim Moon-chol, said: "Our eyes were full of fire right after we saw the enemy's shells being fired into our sacred waters".

Another soldier, Kim Kyong-su, boasted that Pyongyang's shelling showed "no mercy at all".