S. Korea stages firing drill from island shelled by DPRK

17:06, December 20, 2010      

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A South Korean watches TV broadcasting Yeonpyeong Island at the port of Incheon in Gyeonggi province of South Korea on Dec. 20, 2010. (Xinhua/Park Jin Hee)

South Korea began Monday a live-firing drill from a western border island despite Pyongyang's repeated vows of counterattack, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in Seoul said.

The drill started at 14:30 local time (0530 GMT), an official from the Defense Ministry's press office told Xinhua over phone, adding that it will "end soon."

The scheduled one-day firing exercise, conducted in waters near a disputed western sea border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will "not last too long," a JCS official told Xinhua.

Residents of Yeonpyeong island were told to take shelter ahead of the live-fire drill.

South Korea has reportedly deployed a guided-missile Aegis destroyer and fighter jets have taken off in anticipation of potential counterattacks by Pyongyang, which recently vowed "self- defense blows" against South Korea's artillery exercises.

The exercise reportedly involves K-9 self-propelled guns, 105mm howitzers and Vulcan cannons.

The drill further heightens tension on the Korean peninsula following the DPRK's artillery bombardment on Nov. 23 of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong, which killed two marines and two civilians.

Pyongyang has claimed the shelling was for self-defense and provoked by Seoul and Washington then engaged in annual naval drills near a disputed western sea border.

Pyongyang never acknowledged a disputed maritime border near Yeonpyeong, unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations military forces at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The two former wartime rivals have had fatal naval skirmishes near the sea border, called the Northern Limit Line.
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