Korea deaths 'very regrettable'

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North Korea has said that if there were any civilian deaths in its attack on a South Korean island, they were "very regrettable".

North Korea shelled the island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, killing two civilians and two Marines and destroying dozens of houses. It said it was responding to live fire by South Korea into its waters.

"If that is true, it is very regrettable," KCNA said of the civilian deaths. "But the enemy should be held responsible for the incident as it took such inhuman action as creating 'a human shield' by deploying civilians around artillery positions and inside military facilities."

The statement comes on the day that South Korea honoured the two marines killed in the artillery attack at a funeral service in Seongnam, near the capital Seoul, on Saturday.

The South Korean marines commander vowed unspecified "thousand-fold" retaliation at the funeral, as the country geared up for joint military manoeuvres with the US starting on Sunday.

The military exercises are likely to keep tensions high following the North Korean attack on a South Korean island, which also killed two civilians.

Parents of the two marines, Seo Jeong-woo and Moon Kwang-wook, fought back tears during the funeral service.

As a brass band played sombre music, they placed chrysanthemums - a traditional mourning flower - before framed photographs of the two men, posthumously promoted and awarded medals of valour.

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