S. Korea conducts live-fire drill near tense sea border

November 21, 2014
South Korea held a live-fire drill at sea near a tense border line on Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea held a live-fire drill at sea near a tense border line on Friday. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The South Korean military carried out a live-fire exercise near the tensely-guarded inter-Korean Yellow Sea border Friday to check its preparedness against possible provocations by North Korea, the defense ministry said.

The two-hour naval drill is part of the ongoing Hoguk (defense of nation) exercise that began last week and involves some 330,000 troops with the aim of bolstering its defense posture against growing North Korean threats. The 12-day drill is the largest ever in terms of scale.

The live-fire drill, led by the country’s Northwest Islands Defense Command in the Yellow Sea, involved K-9 self-propelled howitzers and multiple rocket launchers as well as artillery dispatched along the front-line coastal regions, according to the ministry.

The military also fired a Spike missile, which is capable of precisely striking Pyongyang’s coastal artillery pieces, it noted.

Hours before the drill, North Korea issued a statement and criticized the South for “driving the situation to an extreme phase through provocations in the acute hotspot waters.”

In response, South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok stressed that the drill is carried out on a regular basis and has nothing to do with the anniversary of North Korea’s shelling of the South’s island of Yeonpyeong.

On Nov. 23, 2010, the North fired some 170 rounds of artillery at the front-line island of Yeonpyeong, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians, and wounding 16 others. It was Pyongyang’s first artillery attack on South Korean soil since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

A military officer in Seoul said that the live fire “will not take aim at the northern side but will be shot in a southwesterly direction from the border islands,” while noting that residents on Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong were evacuated in case of possible provocations by North Korea during the drill.

Tensions remain high near the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL). The North does not recognize the line, demanding it be drawn further south, making the region a flashpoint of military confrontation between the two Koreas.