US President Barack Obama has ordered an aircraft carrier task force to hold joint exercises with South Korea’s naval forces, after North Korea pounded an inhabited South Korean island near the peninsula’s disputed western maritime border 23 November. Four people are confirmed dead in the artillery attack, two civilians and two military personnel.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak has come under strong domestic criticism for his measured response to the attack. He promised “stern retaliation” if North Korea continues its provocations. Major international leaders have called for calm in what is deemed the most serious incident between the two countries since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Obama says he is outraged by the attack, coming as it did after last week’s revelations of a significant increase in the North’s nuclear production capabilities.

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