The US has sent one of its aircraft carriers to South Korean waters today, in a show of solidarity after the artillery attack by North Korea on its southern neighbour.

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South Korean police has found the bodies of two civilians on the island of Yeonpyeong near the border with North Korea after a heavy exchange of fire yesterday.

Police said two people, thought to be aged in their 60s, were the apparent victims of yesterday's bombardment, the heaviest attack since the Korean War ended in 1953.

Two South Korean marines were killed yesterday when North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells across the maritime border in the disputed Korean peninsula.

'Brink of war'

North Korea said today the South's actions were driving the peninsula "to the brink of war" with "reckless military provocation" and by postponing humanitarian aid, according to its state news agency.

A US aircraft carrier set off for Korean waters today to join exercises with South Korea, US official said.

More bodies found following North Korea shelling

While planned before yesterday's "unprovoked attack" the exercise would demonstrate the strength of a South Korean-US alliance, the official added.

The nuclear-powered USS George Washington, which carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, left a naval base south of Tokyo and would join exercises from Sunday to the following Wednesday.

International condemnation

The US and other Japan has urged China - North Korea's only major ally - to do more to rein in the secretive state.

President Barack Obama, woken up in the early hours to be told of the artillery strike yesterday, said he was outraged and pressed the North to stop its provocative actions.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon called the attack one of the "gravest incidents" since the end of the Korean War.

Regional powers have made clear they are looking for a diplomatic end to the tension.

China has long propped up the Pyongyang leadership, worried that a collapse of the North could bring instability to its own borders and also wary of a unified Korea that would be dominated by the United States, the key ally of the South.

Beijing said it had agreed with the United States to try to restart talks among regional powers over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said today that resuming "six-party" talks to denuclearise North Korea is difficult after the reclusive country shelled a South Korean island.

Palin's support for North Korea?

Potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin made her latest gaffe on Wednesday afternoon, mistakenly calling North Korea one of America's allies on a popular radion show hosted by conservative Fox News presenter Glenn Beck.

Asked how she'd handle the recent escalation between the two Koreas, Mrs Palin said: "This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy," before adding "but obviously we've gotta stand with our North Korean allies."

Mr Beck interupted: "South Korea?," and the flustered the former vice presidential candidate replied: "Yeah. And we're also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes."

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