The UN Security Council was last night urgently seeking to ease freshly renewed tensions between North and South Korea, after convening an emergency meeting to discuss their ongoing dispute.
It was preparing to tell both countries to exercise "maximum restraint" in a row over South Korea's plans for live-fire artillery drills, as the stand-off between them remained at hair-trigger level.
The North has warned of a "disaster" if the South carries out the drills, which are due to take place on the same island shelled by the North last month, in attacks that killed four people.
Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a special US envoy to Pyongyang, warned yesterday that the world was facing "a crisis situation". Unconfirmed reports from South Korean state media claimed that the North had raised its military readiness along the west coast.
A draft UN statement proposed by Russia, stressed the need "to ensure a de-escalation of tension". It was subjected to protracted discussions, amid ongoing Chinese reluctance to condemn the North.
The statement called for all disputes to be settled "exclusively through peaceful diplomatic means" and requested that Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, immediately send an envoy to the area.