Taiwan halts live-fire drills after Kim's death

TAIPEI - Taiwan on Tuesday ordered a halt to planned live-fire military drills to avoid inflaming regional tensions after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, officials said.

Planned live-fire exercises on outlying islands had been suspended so as to avoid any "unexpected misunderstanding", Major General Hau I-chih told reporters.

Taiwan's arch-rival China is North Korea's sole major ally.

"When to lift the temporary suspension of such exercises will depend on developments on the Korean peninsula," Hau said, declining to say when exactly the drills were scheduled to take place.

Taiwan's National Security Council held a special inter-ministry meeting and briefed President Ma Ying-jeou after Kim's death was announced on Monday.

But Ma said he had not ordered the military to heighten its alert level, as the world watches warily for how North Korea's transfer of power to the late leader's son Kim Jong-Un will play out.

"In the face of developments in North Korea and Northeast Asia, we'd like to urge countries in the Asia-Pacific area to keep working together to maintain regional security and stability," Ma said on Monday.