South Korea to hold artillery drills near border with North

2 12 2010

Tania Branigan (The Guardian, 1 Dec. 2010) South Korea plans to hold major artillery training exercises next week – including some in an area close to its disputed maritime border with the North, media in Seoul reported today. Analysts warned the move, which emerged as the South’s military completed joint drills with a US aircraft carrier group, could increase tensions already running high in the wake of last week’s attack by the North

Analysts believe the most likely outcome of the current stand-off is further negotiations, and that North Korea’s actions are in part intended to push Seoul and Washington back towards talks based on giving the North aid in exchange for a pledge on scaling back its nuclear capabilities. The US has described its participation in this week’s manoeuvres as a deterrent while the South’s defence minister warned there was an “ample possibility” of a provocation by the North when the USS George Washington aircraft carrier leaves today.

But some analysts warned that more military drills could escalate a delicate situation by angering the North. “The overall situation might be intensified and a new crisis might be brought by doing this,” said Professor Chu Shulong, an expert on international security at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. He added: “Because of the Cheonan incident in March and the shelling in Yeonpyeong, [South Korean] people are angry and their anger has not been addressed yet. They are not happy with the reaction of the government. “At the same time, South Korea cannot attack North Korea. They can only express their anger through military drills; it is their only way to show the determination to defend their country and to warn the North.”

Dr Leonid Petrov, an expert on the North at the University of Sydney, added: “Conservatives in Pyongyang and Seoul are driving the situation to a new extreme.” He argued that Lee’s choice was effectively to “either go to war with North Korea or reverse his policy and return to the sunshine policy [of his predecessors] and renege on his electoral promises”. Petrov added that the “responsible” course for the US would be to talk to the North.

Beijing – under pressure to rein in its ally – threw the ball back into Washington’s court by calling for an emergency meeting of the six nations involved in the stalled aid-for-denuclearisation talks. But the US, South Korea and Japan have snubbed that proposal, instead planning to hold trilateral talks next week. “I think there has to be a seriousness on the part of the North Koreans to get back to these [six-party] talks,” said the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs.

Japan sent its envoy to the nuclear talks to China today. The senior North Korean leader Choe Thae Bok is currently in Beijing and China’s state councillor Dai Bingguo is expected to travel to Pyongyang shortly. A Russian nuclear envoy, Grigory Logvinov, will meet officials in Seoul today to discuss the attack, the six-party talks and other issues, said South Korea’s foreign ministry…

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Military to hold firing drills near border island next week

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s military plans to conduct large-scale artillery firing drills in seas around the Korean Peninsula, including waters close to the Yellow Sea border, starting Dec. 6, seeking to beef up its defense readiness posture against any possible additional provocations by North Korea, officials said Tuesday.

According to officials at the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has issued an advisory to local vessels planning to navigate 29 locations in waters around the peninsula from Dec. 6-12. The 29 locations include 16 in the Yellow Sea, seven in the East Sea and six in the South Sea, the officials said.

They noted that the 16 Yellow Sea locations do not include waters close to Yeonpyeong Island, which was attacked by North Korea’s deadly artillery shells on Nov. 23. Instead, Daecheong Island, close to Baengnyeong Island and located just south of the Yellow Sea border, was included among the venues of the naval firing drills, the officials said. “Naval warships plan to conduct firing exercises in waters southwest of Daecheong Island,” an official for the JCS said.

Next week’s naval firing drills, which will follow the large-scale South Korea-U.S. joint naval exercises scheduled to continue through Wednesday, are expected to further increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula…

…Government sources said that the military also has a plan to conduct shooting exercises in waters off Yeonpyeong Island in the immediate future. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that the military is now seeking to choose an appropriate time for live fire exercises in waters off Yeonpyeong Island.