Korea: Calls for Peace Continue as Tensions Escalate

Korean Christians are continuing their call for prayer and peace on the Korean Peninsula as tensions between the North and South escalate.

A statement released on Monday by the National Council of Churches in South Korea said that the group "believes in Jesus Christ as 'the Lord of Peace' and has been praying and making our every effort for reconciliation, peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula."

"We ask our government to take initiative from a broader viewpoint to eliminate any possibility of military confrontation," they said, adding requests for the government to take a series of "complementary measures of peace" including expanding humanitarian efforts.

"Even in this difficult time, authorities should not give up an effort of mutual dialogue and of opening a way of reconciliation and co-existence on the Korean peninsula."

North and South Korea have been at odds since March, when the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, sunk on March 26, leaving 46 sailors dead.

An investigation into the incident concluded earlier this month revealing that the ship had been torpedoed by North Korean forces, although North Korea continues to deny responsibility.

Since last week, South Korea has taken punitive measures against the North, cutting off trade and broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda across the demilitarized zone.

North Korea has in turn threatened to respond to "confrontation with confrontation" and war with "all-out war," although observers believe that a full scale war is unlikely.

North Korea has a history of attacking its Southern counterpart since the 1953 armistice, including a 1968 attempt to assassinate then South Korean President Park Chung Hee. Analysts believe that the Cheonan incident could spark some isolated retaliations, but add that the South will most likely not risk damages to its booming economy by delving into war.

On Friday, Japan made vows to stand with South Korea in its accusations against the North for the Cheonan incident, while officials from China – a long-time ally of North Korea - attempted to be neutral on the conflict, and backed away from supporting possible U.N. action against their communist counterparts.

"The urgent task for the moment is to properly handle the serious impact caused by the Cheonan incident, gradually defuse tensions over it and avoid possible conflicts," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said.

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