South Korea conducts large military drills

South Korean Army held a large-scale live-fire drill on Thursday close to the heavily armed border with the North.

South Korea conducts large military drills

South Korean Army held a large-scale live-fire drill on Thursday close to the heavily armed border with the North as the presidential office said President Lee Myung-bak visited a military unit to inspect readiness.

Lee's tour of the forward unit in rugged mountain region in the east just south of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) border came after Seoul's vow to strike back at any North Korean attack.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said its military should launch a "merciless counterattack" if its territory is attacked again by North Korea.

North Korea responded to the show of military might by denouncing its richer neighbour as a warmonger, but stopped short of threatening a retaliatory strike as tensions simmered following the North's shelling of a southern island last month.

"We had believed patience would ensure peace on this land, but that was not the case," Lee told troops at a forward army unit near the border.

South Korea held a major land drill in the Pocheon region, between Seoul and the heavily armed demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. It also continued naval live-fire exercises 100 km (60 miles) south of the maritime border with North Korea.

The drill involves a larger scale of firepower and personnel than usual for an exercise at the army training ground.

A large contingent of mechanised units operating tanks, three dozen self-propelled artillery, fighter jets and multiple rocket launchers, took part in the live-fire drill just miles from the border with the North.

About 800 local residents and children were invited to watch the drill from bleachers set up overlooking a wide valley where the troops aimed firearms.

The drill ended just under an hour after it began and was described by a Defence Ministry official as intense. Lee has replaced his top defence officials with more hawkish military men.

"(South Korea) is trying to hide the provocative nature toward the North of the war exercises," Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said in a comment, calling the drills "madcap" and "offensive" and referring to the South Korean military as "puppet warmongers".

The North's reaction was relatively calm in comparison with its warnings of a retaliatory strike made as recently as last week, before Monday's live-firing drill on Yeonpyeong, which lies in disputed waters off the west coast of the peninsula.

Its official Rodong Sinmun newspaper accused the United States of conspiring with the South and Japan to bring war to the Korean peninsula.

"The Korean peninsula has turned sharply unstable on the brink of war due to scheming by the U.S. to militarily stifle the North," the commentary said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, when asked about the drills, repeated Beijing's call for a resumption of the so-called six-party talks.

"The current situation on the Korean peninsula remains highly complex," she told a regular news briefing. "We urge parties concerned to exercise calm and restraint."

Agencies

Last Mod: 23 Aralık 2010, 16:34
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