South Korea names new defence minister
South Korean President Lee Myung Bak named Lee Hee Won as the new defence minister, media reports said Friday after his predecessor resigned over criticism that he fumbled Seoul's response to North Korea's artillery strike earlier in the week.
Kim Tae Young resigned late Thursday, two days after the North Korean artillery strike on Yeonpyeong island near the two countries' disputed maritime border that killed two South Korean soldiers and two civilians, dpa reported.
The government was criticized for having responded too late and too weakly to Pyongyang's provocation.
According to South Korea, its neighbour fired more than 170 artillery rounds, 80 of which hit Yeonpyeong, which lies 12 kilometres from North Korea. The South answered with 80 rounds of its own, aiming for artillery positions on North Korea's coast. The exchange of fire lasted about an hour.
North Korea blamed the South for the clash and threatened further "retaliatory blows."
Most residents have left the island ahead of joint South Korean-US military drills on Sunday, fearing renewed clashes. According to the Yonhap news agency, only 47 of Yeonpyeong's 1,400 residents remain on the island.
Seoul is considering setting up a new military command organization for the islands in the Yellow Sea to strengthen its defence against North Korea, Yonhap said. The command would increase the number of soldiers on the five islands from 5,000 to 12,000, the report said.
Defence spending is likely to be ramped up following the latest attack and the March sinking of a South Korean warship for which the North is believed responsible, government officials in Seoul said.
According to Yonhap, the government has earmarked 1.4 trillion won (1.23 billion dollars) for weapons purchases next year.