S. Korea to hold live-fire drills despite N. Korea's harsh
Published : Feb 19, 2012 - 19:32
Updated : Feb 19, 2012 - 19:32

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Sunday it will hold "routine" live-fire drills this week near the Yellow Sea border islands with North Korea, despite the North's warning of "merciless" retaliation if provoked.

The South's military notified North Korea of the planned drills near the five border islands, set for Monday, through its representatives at the truce village of Panmunjom earlier in the day, an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

One of the South Korean islands, Yeonpyeong, was shelled by North Korea in November 2010, marking the first North Korean attack on South Korean territory since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The shelling of Yeonpyeong island, which North Korea claimed was provoked by the South's firing drills at that time, sharply raised public support for a far tougher military response if the North stages a similar attack again.

"The firing drills scheduled for tomorrow are routine and aimed at maintaining our military's combat capabilities," the JCS official said on the condition of anonymity.

"We notified people living on the five islands they should evacuate into safe zones ahead of the firing drills," the official said.

Hours after the South Korean military's notification, the North's military denounced the planned drills as a "premeditated military provocation" against the North and vowed to "promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes" if the South violates its territorial waters during the drills.

"Once the group of traitors starts a reckless military provocation in those waters...and in case just a single column of water is observed in its territorial waters, the (North's) Korean People's Army will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes," it said in a statement carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency.

The KCNA's "open notice" advised all civilians on five border islands in waters off the west cost to evacuate to safe areas before the planned naval drills on Monday morning.

It also said the Lee Myung-bak administration "should not forget the lesson" from the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Meanwhile, South Korea and its ally United States will hold joint anti-submarine drills this week in the Yellow Sea.

South Korea and the U.S. regularly hold military exercises to bolster their readiness against a possible North Korean invasion.

Pyongyang routinely denounces military drills in the South as rehearsals for a northward invasion.

Tensions remain high on the divided Korean Peninsula over the North's two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 -- the shelling of Yeonpyeong and the sinking of the Cheonan warship.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.


<한글 기사>

軍, 내일 서북도서서 계획대로 해상사격훈련

"통상적 훈련"..유엔사 요원 참관

해병대는 오는 20일 오전 백령도와 연평도 등 서북도서 지역에서 사격훈련을 실시한다고 19일 밝혔다.

백령도와 연평도의 해병부대는 20일 오전 K-9 자주포와 20㎜ 벌컨포, 81㎜ 박격 포 등을 동원해 해상 사격훈련을 할 예정이다.

군 당국은 이날 오전 판문점을 통해 북측에 훈련 일정을 통보했으며 북한군은 우리 군에 전통문을 보내 "연평도 불바다의 교훈을 잊지 말아야 한다"고 위협한  것 으로 전해졌다.

군의 한 관계자는 "북한과 상관없이 훈련은 계획대로 실시할 것"이라면서 "현재 까지 북한의 특이동향은 없다"고 말했다.

다른 관계자는 "이번 훈련은 서북도서 방위사령부가 전투력 유지 차원에서 현재 보유하고 있는 기본 화기를 이용한 통상적인 훈련"이라면서 "우리 사격 구역 내에서 이뤄지기 때문에 북한이 만약 도발한다면 자위권 차원에서 응징, 타격하도록 하겠다 "고 전했다.

해병대는 지난 1월26일 서북도서 일대에서 해상 사격훈련을 실시했으며  지난해 에는 3,5,10,12월 모두 네 차례에 걸쳐 훈련이 이뤄졌다.

군 당국은 백령도와 연평도 주민에게 공지하고 항해 경보를 발령했다. 이번  훈 련에는 유엔사 군사정전위 요원이 참관한다.