S. Korea stages live-fire drill near sea border

South Korean Marines Thursday staged a live-fire artillery drill on an island shelled by North Korea in 2010, the first such exercise since the death of Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong-Il last month.

"Our troops staged two-hour firing drills today" on two frontline islands -- Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong, a Marine spokesman told AFP.

A similar drill on Yeonpyeong in November 2010 provoked a North Korean artillery barrage which killed two Marines and two civilians and sparked international alarm.

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"This is one of our routine and regular drills," the spokesman said, adding it had been planned well before Kim's death on December 17.

The firing drills near the disputed Yellow Sea border involve K-9 self-propelled guns, Vulcan cannon and other artillery, Yonhap news agency said.

Military tensions have been high since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship near the border with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010. South Korea has staged a series of drills alone or jointly with US troops since then.

The North denied torpedoing the ship but launched its shelling attack later that year. The South has since then reinforced the frontline islands with extra troops, more artillery and attack helicopters.

Kim has been succeeded by his youngest son Jong-Un. The regime has taken a hostile tone with the South since the takeover and vowed that policy will not change.

by Mathieu Rabechault © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Jan 26, 2012