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March 3, 2021

S. Korean defence minister resigns, North threatens additional attacks

South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young resigned Thursday, according to the South Korean presidency, two days after North Korea shelling left four South Koreans dead, CNN reports. “The president has just accepted the defense minister’s resignation,” according to a spokesman for the Presidential Blue House.

Kim, a former general, came under heavy criticism after the March sinking of the South Korean vessel Cheonan and again after North Korea struck the South’s Yeonpyeong Island on Tuesday.

North Korea has been blamed by the South and other nations for the Cheonan incident, in which 46 soldiers were killed, but has denied responsibility. North Korea has blamed South Korea and the United States for the Yeonpyeong incident, in which two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed and 15 others injured.

South Korean lawmakers from both parties alleged that South Korean forces were unprepared for the North Korean attacks, and some have insisted that South Korean aircraft should have responded to the Yeonpyeong incident immediately. Lawmakers demanded Kim’s resignation earlier Thursday.

Kim actually submitted his resignation May 1, after the Cheonan incident, said the Blue House spokesman, but it was not accepted until Thursday because of the Cheonan aftermath and other military-related issues. The Cheonan sinking sparked a public uproar, with many stating that it should not have been possible for North Korea to have damaged South Korea’s military, which is much more high-tech.

President Lee Myung-bak also drew criticism for his first statements after the Yeonpyeong artillery bombardment, in which he asked for a stern response but added that de-escalatory measures also had to be taken. Later that same day, Lee spoke to the military and urged heavy retaliation.

Earlier Thursday, North Korean state media said the nation will launch additional attacks on South Korea if the South continues “reckless military provocation.” Pyongyang “will deal without hesitation the second and third strong physical retaliatory blow” if provoked, its KCNA news agency said. As an example of provocation, it indirectly referred to a military drill that South Korea and the United States plan to hold in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.

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