Dec 4, 2010

Chinese passenger train hits world record speed of 302 mph

A Chinese passenger train hit a record speed of 302 miles per hour (486 kilometers per hour) Friday during a test run of a yet-to-be opened link between Beijing and Shanghai, state media said.
China Railway High-Speed (CRH) train enters Bengbu south railway station, a stop in Anhui province on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, on Friday Dec. 3, 2010.

The Xinhua News Agency said it was the fastest speed recorded by an unmodified conventional commercial train. Other types of trains in other countries have traveled faster.

A specially modified French TGV train reached 357.2 mph (574.8 kph) during a 2007 test, while a Japanese magnetically levitated train sped to 361 mph (581 kph) in 2003.

State television footage showed the sleek white train whipping past green farm fields in eastern China. It reached the top speed on a segment of the 824-mile (1,318-kilometer) -long line between Zaozhuang city in Shandong province and Bengbu city in Anhui province, Xinhua said.

The line is due to open in 2012 and will halve the current travel time between the capital Beijing and Shanghai to five hours.

The project costs $32.5 billion and is part of a massive government effort to link many of China's cities by high-speed rail and reduce overcrowding on heavily used lines.

South Korea ready to retaliate North Korean attack

Newly appointed South Korean defense minister Kim Kwan-jin took office Saturday and vowed a strong military response that would force rival North Korea to surrender if it attacks the South again.
Newly appointed Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin salutes during his inauguration ceremony at the South Korean Defense Ministry in Seoul on Saturday,

"If North Korea carries out a military provocation on our territory and people again, we must retaliate immediately and strongly until they completely surrender," Kim Kwan-jin said in a speech Saturday to senior military officials.

Kim also called for military readiness, saying North Korea would plot new provocations. He later visited the island targeted by the North Korean attack and vowed to take strong measures to ensure North Korea would not dare to make more provocations. He said the military would quickly hold firing drills if the weather permits, according to the Yonhap news agency.
Before this, during a confirmation hearing on Friday, Kim warned that South Korea would launch air strikes on the communist North if it stages another attack.
Kim Kwan-jin's predecessor resigned amid criticism that the government responded weakly to a Nov. 23 North Korean artillery barrage on a South Korean island near their disputed western sea border that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Skirmishes occur periodically along the two Koreas' disputed maritime border, but the latest assault was the first since the 1950-53 Korean War to target a civilian area.

The attack came eight months after an alleged North Korean torpedo strike on a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors. North Korea has denied involvement.

Critics have questioned President Lee Myung-bak's willingness to stand up militarily to the North, despite his tough stance of refusing to coddle the reclusive regime since taking office nearly three years ago.

Lee must balance calls for a harsh response with the knowledge that Seoul — a city of more than 10 million people — is only 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the heavily militarized border and within easy range of North Korean artillery.

On Friday, the U.S. Senate approved a resolution condemning the North Korean attack and urging the North to halt all nuclear activities and refrain from any further actions that may destabilize the Korean peninsula.

"This brazen attack is one in a series of actions by the government of North Korea that undermine regional peace and security, especially on the Korean peninsula," the resolution said.

Also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she will meet with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Monday in Washington "to review the approach we should be taking" toward North Korea.

"What we object to is a pursuit of nuclear weapons that can be used to threaten and intimidate their neighbors and beyond," Clinton said in Bahrain. "That is unacceptable, and it is destabilizing."

Clinton will hold separate meetings with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers on Monday before the three meet together later in the day, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

The three will issue a joint statement condemning North Korea's recent attack, Yonhap said, citing an unidentified Seoul official. The Foreign Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the report.

After quitting the six-nation talks in April 2009, North Korea has shown it is eager to restart them to gain much-needed fuel oil and aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament. However, North Korea's recent revelation that it has developed a large uranium enrichment facility, giving it a new method for making material for bombs, has further called into question its intent to disarm.

US unemployment rate hits at 9.8 percent

The US jobless rate surged to 9.8 percent in November, a hammer blow to the economic recovery and to President Barack Obama's hopes for a quick end to high unemployment.

The world's largest economy created many fewer jobs than expected and the unemployment rate rose from 9.6 percent to its highest level since April, the Labor Department reported.

A measly 39,000 jobs were created during the month, well short of the 130,000 predicted by economists and well beneath the levels needed to dent unemployment rates.

Job losses in the retail and manufacturing sector led the decline as the employment market once again proved unable to untether itself from the long-ended recession.

The jobless rate has remained above nine percent for the last 19 months, leaving more than 15 million jobseekers unemployed.

The White House, under pressure to prove its economic policies are working, acknowledged the unemployment rate was "unacceptably high."

Massive government stimulus plans, while alleviating the worst ravages of the downturn, have failed to bring unemployment levels into line with those seen over the last decade.

But Austan Goolsbee, one of Obama's top economic advisers, warned it was "important not to read too much into any one monthly report."

"Although the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past year, there will surely continue to be bumps in the road ahead such as this," he said.

The White House also pointed to a private sector that is still creating jobs, albeit at a slower rate than desired.

"Today's employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 50,000 in November, lower than expectations, but continuing eleven consecutive months of private sector job growth," Goolsbee said.

While the high rate of joblessness is a constant worry for the eight-plus million Americans who lost their jobs during the crisis, policymakers are increasingly concerned about how long the trend has persisted.

With nearly 40 percent of the jobless unemployed for more than six months, fears are growing that high jobless rates may be more than a temporary result of a brutal recession.

"Today's jobs report marks the 19th consecutive month in which unemployment has exceeded nine percent, an unacceptable result," said Eric Cantor, a leading Republican lawmaker in the House of Representatives.

He urged Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts that critics argue the deficit-ridden country can ill afford, but which supporters argue will help spur the recovery.

"Congress should reassure job creators and investors by taking the impending tax hikes off the table," Cantor added.

With Congress frozen by partisan politics and gripped by fears about US debt levels, Obama has hoped to lower the unemployment rate by clinging to what government stimulus still exists.

The White House warned that Congress's refusal to extend unemployment benefits would damage the economy as two million Americans will see their incomes slashed.

Goolsbee said Congress must also extend tax cuts for the middle class.

"Failure to do this would jeopardize hundreds of thousands of additional jobs, and leave millions of Americans, who are out of work through no fault of their own, on their own."

On Friday the Labor Department raised its estimates of job creation in October from 151,000 to 172,000, a hike that was of little succor to markets.

"Despite some upward revisions, the headline number was wildly off, and wildly disappointing," said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 11 points (around 0.10 percent) after the first hour of trading.

Afridi not fully satisfied with his teams world cup 2011 preparations

Pakistan's one-day captain Shahid Afridi said Friday he was not fully satisfied with preparations for next year's World Cup, acknowledging low expectations of victory.

Afridi expressed reservations in the light of problems that have dogged Pakistan's recent tours with players disciplined and dragged into damaging spot-fixing allegations.

"I am not 100 percent satisfied with the team's preparations for the World Cup," Afridi told reporters at a local function.

"We've had problems on every tour, and although there aren't high expectations, as captain I'm positive and will keep on motivating the team," said Afridi.

His comments came one day after manager Intikhab Alam said Pakistan was capable of winning the World Cup -- to be jointly hosted by Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka from February 19 to April 2.

Key players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamer -- suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) over spot-fixing charges during the Lord's Test against England in August -- are unlikely to make the team.

The trio appear before an ICC commission next month and face the prospect of severe punishment, including lengthy bans.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) also failed to clear wicket-keeper batsman Kamran Akmal and all-rounder Shoaib Malik for the upcoming tour of New Zealand, reportedly because of suspicions of fixing.

"You should ask the PCB and selection committee about why Kamran and Malik were not picked," said Afridi.

"Both are good players and have been doing well in domestic matches."

Pakistan have until December 19 to select a provisional 30-man World Cup squad which should be trimmed down to 15 by January 19.

Afridi said Malik was dropped from previous tours to help him win back form.

"I think he would have learnt from his mistakes," said Afridi of Malik, who was Pakistan's captain from April 2007 to January 2009 but has suffered some shortcomings in his game.

Both Malik and Kamran have expressed disappointment at not being picked.

Pakistan play three Twenty20, two Tests and six one-day on their tour of New Zealand starting December 26 -- their last assignment before the World Cup.

Pakistan are placed in Group A of the 14-team competition along with defending champions Australia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Canada, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.

India, South Africa, Bangladesh, England, the West Indies, Ireland and the Netherlands are in Group B of the event, which runs from February 19-April 2.

US and Japan begin biggest-ever military show: row over N. Korean Attack

In an ongoing show of force following a deadly North Korean attack on a front-line island, the US and Japan began one of their biggest-ever military exercises on Friday, mobilizing more than 44,000 troops, hundreds of aircraft and a US super carrier.

The drills come just after the U.S. and South Korea concluded maneuvers in the Yellow Sea. The exercises brought immediate criticism from China, which is wary of having foreign navies off its shores and has been increasingly assertive over large swaths of waters in the south and east China seas, where some of the drills would take place.

"At present, there are already enough of these kinds of military exercises. Under the present conditions, all relevant parties ought to do more to benefit the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region, and not the opposite," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

The Nov 23 North Korean attack killed two South Korean marines and two civilians on Yeonpyeong Island, a tiny enclave of civilians and military bases located near a disputed maritime border.

The attack has heightened tensions in the region and renewed fears of a bigger clash breaking out that could draw in neighbouring countries, including Japan, where about 50,000 US troops are based under a security pact.

The drills in and around Japan are part of the annual "Keen Sword" maneuvers and involve tens of thousands of troops from both sides, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and its battle group. For the first time, the exercises also have observers from South Korea.

According to Japan's Defense Ministry, 34,100 Japanese personnel, 40 vessels and 250 aircraft from Japan's ground, maritime and air self-defense forces will take part, along with 10,400 troops, 20 ships and 150 aircraft from the U.S. military.

The maneuvers, which were scheduled well before the North Korean incident, are to continue through Dec. 10.

"By conducting exercises such as Keen Sword, we are ensuring that our forces will continue to be effective in meeting the challenges of the 21st century," said Lt. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of the U.S. 13th Air Force.

Officials said South Korea was included for the first time since the exercises were started in 1986 in an effort to bolster cooperation between the two neighbors.

"Japan-U.S. cooperation, as well as our three-way cooperation that includes South Korea, is extremely important for peace and stability in east Asia," Japan's Chief of Staff Gen. Ryoichi Oriki said.

Japan has reacted with alarm to the developments on the Korean peninsula. Prime Minister Naoto Kan even ordered his Cabinet ministers to stay near the capital in case of an emergency.

Courtesy: AP

Dec 3, 2010

Russia wins for FIFA world cup 2018 and Qatar for 2022

Russia and Qatar became the winners in the race to arrange world cup 2018 and 2022 respectively held on December 2, 2010. They could achieve the final recognition from FIFA to arrange the prestigious and pleasant event of the football. FIFA gave its ultimate recognition to new regions of the world to balance in  sharing the pleasure of world cup final.

Soccer's governing body's executive committee voted for the two winning bids after a fierce lobbying campaign which saw world political leaders and top sports personalities gather in Zurich to press their case for one of the most prestigious and lucrative prizes in global sport. 

Russia won the right to put on the 2018 World Cup, the first time it will have been staged in Eastern Europe after 10 editions in the western half of the continent.

Qatar will stage the 2022 finals, a first both for the Middle East and for an Arab country. It will also be the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup with a population of less than a million.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who announced the winners after a vote of his executive committee in the Swiss financial capital, said: "We go to new lands.

"Never has the World Cup been in Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Arabic world have been waiting for a long time so I'm a happy president when we talk about the development of football."

This year's World Cup was held in South Africa, the first time it had been held on the African continent.

Russia defeated the challenge of three other European bidders, England and the joint bids of Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal.

They were long-time among the front runners but the non-appearance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for campaigning before the vote in Zurich coupled with U.S. diplomatic cables which emerged on Wikileaks describing Russia as a "corrupt autocracy" appeared to have damaged their bid in the past 24 hours, according to some observers in Zurich.

Qatar took the honors for 2022 over rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

They committed in their bid document to FIFA building nine new stadiums and renovating three existing grounds at a cost of around $3 billion.

Russia deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov, whose delegation whooped with delight on the announcement, said: "You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I just can promise, we all can promise, you will never regret it. Let us make history together."

Qatar bid chief Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani told the FIFA executive: "Thank you for backing us and expanding the game. You will be proud of us and you will be proud of the Middle East."

The voting process took place against a highly charged background after British media outlets made allegations of corruption against a number of FIFA's executive committee members.

Dec 2, 2010

Julian Paul Assange: the publisher of untold truth

The most courageous and brave publisher of the world JulianPaul Assange was born in July 3, 1971. He is an Australian publisher and internet activist. He is best known as the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower website. 

Before working with the website, Mr. Assange was a physics and mathematics student as well as a computer programmer. He has lived in several countries and has told reporters he is constantly on the move. 

He makes irregular public appearances to speak about freedom of the press, censorship, and investigative reporting; he has also won several journalism awards for his work with WikiLeaks.

Assange founded the ever strongest publisher WikiLeaks website in 2006 and serves on its advisory board. In this capacity, he has received widespread public attention for his role in releasing classified material documenting the involvement of the United States in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On 28 November 2010, WikiLeaks and its five media partners began publishing the United States diplomatic cables leak.

On 30 November 2010, Interpol placed Assange on its red notice list of wanted persons, for "sex crimes".

Assange was born in Townsville, Queensland, and spent much of his youth living on Magnetic Island in Australia. 

Assange's parents ran a touring theatre company. In 1979, his mother, Christine, remarried; her new husband was a musician who belonged to a controversial New Age group led by Anne Hamilton-Byrne. The couple had a son, but broke up in 1982 and engaged in a custody struggle for Assange's half-brother. His mother then took both children into hiding for the next five years. Assange moved several dozen times during his childhood, attending many schools, sometimes being home schooled, and later attending several universities at various times in Australia.

In 1987, after turning 16, Assange began hacking under then name "Mendax". He and two other hackers joined to form a group which they named the International Subversives. Assange wrote down the early rules of the subculture: "Don’t damage computer systems you break into; don’t change the information in those systems; and share information".

In response to the hacking, the Australian Federal Police raided his Melbourne home in 1991; he was reported to have accessed computers belonging to an Australian university, the Canadian telecommunications company Nortel, and other organisations, via modem.

 In 1992, he pled guilty to 24 charges of hacking and was released on bond for good conduct after being fined AU$2100. The prosecutor said "there is just no evidence that there was anything other than sort of intelligent inquisitiveness and the pleasure of being able to surf through these various computers".

Assange later commented, "It's a bit annoying, actually. Because I cowrote a book about “being a hacker”, there are documentaries about that, people talk about that a lot. They can cut and paste. But that was 20 years ago. It's very annoying to see modern day articles calling me a computer hacker. I'm not ashamed of it, I'm quite proud of it. But I understand the reason they suggest I'm a computer hacker now. There's a very specific reason."

In 1989, Assange started living with his girlfriend and soon they had a son. She separated from him after the 1991 police raid and took their son. They engaged in a lengthy custody struggle, and did not agree on a custody arrangement until 1999. The entire process prompted Assange and his mother to form Parent Inquiry Into Child Protection, an activist group centered on creating a "central databank" for otherwise inaccessible legal records related to child custody issues in Australia.

In 1993, Assange started one of the first ISPs in Australia, known as "Suburbia". Starting in 1994, Assange lived in Melbourne as a programmer and a developer of free software.

 In 1995, Assange wrote Strobe, the first free and open source port scanner. He contributed several patches to the PostgreSQL project in 1996. He helped to write the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier (1997), which credits him as a researcher and reports his history with International Subversives.

Starting around 1997, he co-invented the Rubberhose deniable encryption system, a cryptographic concept made into a software package for Linux designed to provide plausible deniability against rubber-hose cryptanalysis; he originally intended the system to be used "as a tool for human rights workers who needed to protect sensitive data in the field." 

Other free software that he has authored or co-authored includes the Usenet caching software NNTPCache and Surfraw, a command-line interface for web-based search engines.
In 1999, Assange registered the domain; "But", he says, "then I did not do anything with it."

Assange has reportedly attended six universities. From 2003 to 2006, he studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne. On his personal web page, he described having represented his university at the Australian National Physics Competition around 2005. He has also studied philosophy and neuroscience.

Assange was the winner of the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award (New Media), awarded for exposing extrajudicial assassinations in Kenya with the investigation The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances.

In accepting the award, he said: "It is a reflection of the courage and strength of Kenyan civil society that this injustice was documented. Through the tremendous work of organisations such as the Oscar foundation, the KNHCR, Mars Group Kenya and others we had the primary support we needed to expose these murders to the world."  He also won the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Award.

Assange was awarded the 2010 Sam Adams Award by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

In September 2010, Assange was voted as number 23rd among the "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010" by the British magazine New Statesman. 

In their November-December issue, Utne Reader magazine named Assange as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World".

On 12 November he was leading in the poll for Time magazine's "Person of theYear, 2010".

Elections to 269 municipalities of Bangladesh in January 2011

The Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh has announced schedules for long awaited municipal elections to 269 municipalities under seven divisions of the country. The elections will be held in a staggering way on Jan 12, 13, 17 and 18.
Chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda announced the polls schedules on Thursday at the commission's conference room in Dhaka of Bangladesh.
Among the 310 municipalities, 269 will go for the elections.
Of the remaining municipalities, the terms of 17 are yet to expire while 24 are facing a legal bar to holding elections.
A total of 27 municipalities under Rangpur Division and 49 under Rajshahi Division will go for polls on Jan 12. The last date for submitting nomination papers is Dec 13, while that for scrutiny are Dec 14 and 15, and for withdrawal of nomination is Dec 26 this year.
Elections to 33 municipalities under Khulna and 21 of Barisal divisions will be held on Jan 13. The last date for submission of nomination is Dec 15, while that for scrutiny are Dec 18 and 19, and for withdrawal of candidature is Dec 27.
Dhaka Division, which comprising the maximum number of municipalities, a total of 70, going for polls on Jan 17. The last date for seeking nomination is Dec 18, which will be scrutinised on Dec 20 and 21. Nomination papers can be withdrawn until Dec 27.

Chittagong and Sylhet divisions will hold elections to their municipalities, 53 and 16 respectively, on Jan 18. Nomination papers can be submitted until Dec 19 and those will be scrutinised on Dec 22 and 23 and can be withdrawn by Jan 2.
Elections will be held for a total of 269 mayoral posts, 2,534 councillors and 874 reserved women councillor posts.
Such simultaneous municipal elections were last held from May 5-10, 2004. The elections to term-expired nine municipalities were held along with the city corporation polls in 2008.

WikiLeaks to publish truth of Corporate World soon

The most courageous and brave website of the time WikiLeaks, which has awakened the human mind newly on its own style publishing the unknown  truth of power makers specially about America and its allies this time.  
WikiLeaks, which is causing an international eruption over its release of confidential diplomatic messages, said it would also publish disclosures from the corporate world.
"I believe that in the future we are going to have more material that is pertaining to the corporate community," WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said late Wednesday.
Shares in Bank of America fell 3 percent Tuesday amid investor fears that the largest U.S. bank by assets might be at the center of WikiLeaks' next document release.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said his group planned to release tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank early next year, according to an interview published Monday by Forbes Magazine.
Hrafnsson, speaking at an event in London, confirmed that the website had information about the operations of a U.S. bank, but declined to identify it.
"We usually don't comment on the projects that are ongoing. We take our time in scrutinizing the material before we release it and that applies to this material as well," he said.

Nov 29, 2010

South Africa produces 93 percent electricity from coal

A good number of countries is highly dependent on Electricity generated from Coal. South Africa is on the top of the countries which produces electricity from coal.  South Africa has been producing 93.00% of its total electricity demand from coal.

Some other top countries those are using coal as source of electricity are: Poland    92%,     PR China    79%, Australia    77%, Kazakhstan    70%,    India    69%, Israel    63%, Morocco    55%,        Czech Rep    60%, Greece    52%,        USA    49%,        Germany    46%.

Nov 28, 2010

Coal provides 27 percent global primary energy

Coal is one of the major non-renewable fossil energy sources of the world which provides 27% of global primary energy needs and generates 41% of the world's electricity.

Total Global Hard Coal Production has been almost doubled in the last 20 years.    In the year of 1990 it was 3497Mt, in 2008- 5794Mt and in the year of 2009 the coal production has reached at  5990Mt.

Total Global Brown Coal/Lignite Production was 965Mt in 2008 and  913Mt in 2009.

Brown coal production decreased by 5.4% in 2009. Germany remains the world’s largest brown coal producer, despite production decreasing by around 2.9% in 2009. Brown coal production increased slightly in Canada and India.

War Preparation: N. Korea places missiles, US and S. Korea begin military exercises

NorthKorea has placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap news agency said, as the United States and South Korea began militarydrills and China called for emergency talks.

Caption: The sun rises over a South Korean Navy mobile base off Yeonpyeong Island on November 28, 2010 five days after the North stunned the world by launching a barrage of shells and rockets at the island, killing two marines and two civilians. The United States and South Korea on November 28 began a major naval exercise designed to deter North Korea, after the communist state warned of "unpredictable consequences" if the drill goes ahead.
China made clear that the talks would not amount to a resumption of six-party disarmament discussions which North Korea walked out of two years ago and declared dead. South Korea said it would carefully consider China's suggestion.
Caption: North  Korean preparation for war on 28th November 2010

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had told a visiting Chinese delegation that Beijing, North Korea's only major ally which is traditionally reluctant to criticise the reclusive regime, should do more to help.
Caption: A South Korean marine helps a fellow soldier adjust his uniform as they patrol a village on Yeonpyeong Island November 28, 2010.
 China, which agreed with South Korea that the situation was "worrisome", suggested the emergency talks for December among North and South Korea, host China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

Japan was non-committal. "We want to respond cautiously while cooperating closely with South Korea and the United States," Kyodo news agency quoted Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama as saying.
Beijing has repeatedly urged restraint and fresh talks to defuse tensions.
Kyodo quoted a Japanese government official as saying the issues of denuclearisation and Tuesday's attack on the island of Yeonpyeong had to be separate.
"We'll see what South Korea thinks, but the six-party talks are a place to discuss the nuclear issue, so should they be taking up the issue of the attacks?" 

Yonhap said North Korea had moved surface-to-air missiles to frontline areas, days after it shelled Yeonpyeong killing four people. The North's official KCNA news agency warned of retaliatory action if its territory is violated.
South Korea's Defence Ministry told journalists to leave the island on Sunday because the situation was "bad". Many residents evacuated earlier said they did not want to return.

Officials from South Korea's Defence Ministry and the joint chiefs said they could not comment on the Yonhap report. "It is impossible to confirm the report as it is classified as a military secret," an official said.

In Seoul, life carried on normally for the city's more than 10 million residents, with downtown shopping districts jammed with people despite the freezing temperatures, and cafes decked with Christmas decorations doing brisk business.

"I am worried, but not that worried that I need to stay at home," said Eunhye Kim, an usher showing people from a packed theatre in the capital. "They don't really want to make war ...there's no gain for either side."

The exercises, in waters far south of the disputed maritime boundary, are being held in the face of opposition by China and threats of all-out war from North Korea.

The chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly will visit China from Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said.
China has not taken sides in the conflict and declined to blame North Korea, unlike the United States, for the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March.

"We ask that China make a contribution to peace on the Korean peninsula by taking a more fair and responsible position on South-North Korea ties," the South Korean presidential Blue House quoted Lee as telling Dai.

Washington says the drill is intended as a deterrent after the worst assault on South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Seoul expects jitters in financial markets to settle in the short term unless North Korea carries out further provocations, Yonhap quoted a senior Finance Ministry official as saying.

The government plans to inject sufficient liquidity in won and dollar trading if local markets suffer from herd behaviour on Monday, Yonhap said.

The nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington, which carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, has joined the exercises and will be accompanied by at least four other US warships, an official from US Forces Korea told Reuters.

South Korea has deployed three destroyers, frigates and anti-submarine aircraft, Yonhap reported, adding the exercises were being held far south of the disputed area where the artillery firing took place on Tuesday.
South Korea's marine commander on Saturday vowed "thousand-fold" revenge for the North Korean attack. North Korea said that if there had been civilian deaths, they were "very regrettable", but that South Korea should be blamed for using a human shield.

It also said the United States should be blamed for "orchestrating" the whole sequence of events to justify sending an aircraft carrier to join the maritime manoeuvres.

Courtesy: Reuters and