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Asia-pacific

In show of force, South Korea holds massive military drills

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-23

South Korea's military Thursday held a live-fire drill involving tanks, artillery and jet fighters, in a major show of strength staged exactly a month after North Korea's deadly attack on a border island.

AP - South Korean tanks fired artillery and fighter jets zoomed by to drop bombs Thursday in the military’s largest air-and-ground firing drills of the year—a show of force a month after a deadly North Korean artillery attack.

The drills, at training grounds in mountainous Pocheon about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Koreas’ heavily fortified border, signaled South Korea’s determination to demonstrate and hone its military strength at the risk of further escalation with North Korea.

President Lee Myung-bak, while separately visiting a front-line army base near the Koreas’ eastern land border, vowed a strong response to any new attacks by North Korea.

“I had thought that we could safeguard peace if we had patience, but that wasn’t the case,” Lee told troops, according to his office. “Now we should have a strong response to (North Korea’s provocations), so that we can safeguard peace, deter aggression and prevent a war.”

On a cold, foggy day in Pocheon, meanwhile, tanks raced down mountain roads firing artillery rounds. The boom of cannons echoed through the valley and the hills erupted in smoke. Rockets streamed through the air and slammed into the side of a hill as helicopters overhead fired at targets and F-15 jet fighters dropped bombs.

The drills, which lasted less than 45 minutes, were the armed forces’ largest joint firing exercises this year, and the biggest-ever wintertime air and ground firing exercises in terms of the number of weapons mobilized and fired, government and army officials said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Forty-seven similar exercises have taken place this year, but Thursday’s maneuvers were scheduled in response to the North Korean attack, according to army officials.

The latest drills were aimed at bolstering South Korea’s capability of “destroying the enemy at a single stroke by paralyzing its combat capability with our powerful firepower and maneuvering equipment,” Brig. Gen. Joo Eun-sik, chief of the South Korean army’s 1st Armored Brigade, told reporters at the training site.

Exactly one month ago, routine South Korean live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea triggered a shower of North Korean artillery that killed two marines and two construction workers. It was the first military attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

North Korea, which claims the waters around the South Korean-held island lying just 7 miles (11 kilometers) from its shores as its territory, accused the South of sparking the exchange by ignoring Pyongyang’s warnings against staging the live-fire drills near their disputed maritime border.

Amid international worries of all-out war on the tense Korean peninsula, South Korea has pushed ahead with military exercises over the past several weeks, including live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island and Thursday’s exercises.
 

Date created : 2010-12-23

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