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S. Korea mourns sailors killed in clash with North

SEOUL -- South Korea on Friday mourned the death of six sailors in a naval clash with North Korea 10 years ago, with President Lee Myung-Bak vowing to strongly counter any future attacks.

Lee, the first serving president to attend the annual memorial service, was joined by thousands of sailors, officials, family members and others.

Six South Korean sailors were killed, 18 injured and a patrol boat was sunk on June 29, 2002, in what become known as the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong island after an initial encounter in 1999.

Seoul officials estimated 30 North Korean sailors were killed or wounded.

The clash near the disputed Yellow Sea border broke out during the era of Seoul's “Sunshine” aid and engagement policy towards the North and as the South was co-hosting the World Cup.

Lee's conservative government scrapped the “Sunshine” approach after it took office in 2008, and upgraded the memorial service to heighten awareness of national security.

“At that time, we may have been under the illusion even for a while that there would be no more war and peaceful reunification would come soon,” Lee told the ceremony at a naval base.

“But at that very moment, North Korea mounted a direct attack on the South, going beyond the previous manner of provocations centered on infiltration.”

As supreme commander, Lee said, “I will sternly deal with any provocative acts and boldly counter any aggression to defend the Republic of Korea (South Korea).”

Cross-border tensions have been high during Lee's term. Seoul accuses its neighbor of mounting two attacks in 2010 which killed a total of 50 people.

Pyongyang this year has threatened “sacred war” against Lee's government for perceived insults to its regime.

Lee said the South's ultimate goal was peace and co-prosperity with the North. He urged it to “discard its Cold War-style thinking” and join efforts for world peace.

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, left, burns incense for the dead sailors in front of a monument of the second inter-Korean naval clash in Yeonpyeong, during a commemorative ...

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