YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea - Maneuvers planned by South Korean troops did not take place Saturday because of bad weather on a border island shelled by North Korea last month, as the U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting at Russia's request amid concerns over tensions on the divided peninsula.
The North warned Friday that it would strike even harder than before if the South went ahead with planned one-day firing drills it said it would conduct sometime between Saturday and Tuesday. Four people died last month in the North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island near the sea border.
The United States supports South Korea, saying the country has a right to conduct such a military exercise. However, Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed its "extreme concern" Friday over the drills and urged South Korea to cancel them to prevent a further escalation of tensions.
At Russia's request, the U.N. Security Council scheduled emergency closed-door consultations on North Korea for Sunday, said Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. The United States holds the council's rotating presidency this month.
China, the North's key ally, said it is firmly against any acts that could increase already-high tensions. "In regard to what could lead to worsening the situation or any escalation of acts of sabotage of regional peace and stability, China is firmly and unambiguously opposed," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement Saturday.
The North issued a warning Saturday that South Korea would face "catastrophe" if it went ahead with the drills, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Saturday that marines would go ahead with the drills as scheduled and that the military was ready to respond to any provocation.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said the drills are defensive in nature and are not aimed at stoking regional tensions.
The artillery drills were not expected to take place over the weekend because of bad weather and will be conducted either Monday or Tuesday, a Joint Chiefs officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.
Later Saturday, activists launched balloons containing about 200,000 propaganda leaflets toward the North from the island, which is only about seven miles from North Korean shores. The balloons also carried a thousand $1 bills and DVDs containing information on the North's artillery barrage last month.