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S. Korea to hold live-fire drills as scheduled despite DPRK's warning

(Xinhua)

08:08, February 20, 2012


SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's military said Sunday it will hold live-fire drills early this week near western sea border islands with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ( DPRK) as scheduled, despite Pyongyang's warning of "merciless retaliation" if provoked.

The drill near the five border islands in the Yellow Sea is " routine", Seoul's Ministry of National Defense said, stressing that it will go ahead on early Monday as planned.

The south side notified the DPRK of the planned drill through its representatives at the truce village of Panmunjom earlier in the day. In response, the DPRK military issued a notice late Sunday, denouncing the drill as "a premeditated military provocation", and vowing to make "promptly merciless retaliatory strikes" if the South violated its territorial waters during the drill.

According to local media, marines stationed on border islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong will stage the drill involving K-9 self-propelled howitzers, 81-mm mortars and other weapons.

"The drill will be conducted despite the North's warning... If the North provokes, we will hit back from the standpoint of exercising our right to self-defense," a South Korean military official was quoted as saying.

The South Korean military has staged five similar drills in the same waters since Jan. 26, local media reported.

A similar firing drill in 2010 triggered fierce artillery fire exchange between the two sides near the Yeonpyeong Island, during which four South Koreans were killed.

South Korea and the DPRK have remained at odds on their maritime border in the Yellow Sea. South Korea holds the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which was fixed unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command after the 1950-1953 Korean War, as the de- facto western inter-Korean sea border, but the DPRK rejected the NLL and only recognized the demarcation line it drew in 1999, which was further south of the NLL.

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