SEOUL, Aug 6, 2010 (AFP) - A major South Korean naval exercise designed to strengthen defences went into a second day Friday.
The exercise is one of a series planned in coming months in response to what the South says was a North Korean torpedo attack on a warship.
|This photo taken on August 5, 2010 shows South Korean Marines carrying inflatable boats during a military exercise in Baengnyeong Island near the disputed Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas. AFP|
The South has mobilised 4,500 troops, backed by 29 ships and 50 aircraft, for its five-day drill in the Yellow Sea.
This week's manoeuvres do not include US forces. Last week South Korea and the United States staged a massive joint naval and air drill in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) as a show of force.
Service personnel will practise attacks on intruding craft and defences against submarines on Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, along with a drill to repel attacks on coastline batteries and commando raids.
Pyongyang has angrily denied responsibility for the March sinking of the corvette near the disputed inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea. The incident killed 46 sailors and sharply raised tensions.
The North Thursday termed this week's drill a deliberate provocation and threatened "the most powerful" retaliation if the South triggers a conflict during the exercise.
"Our people and military will mercilessly crush the provokers and their stronghold with the most powerful war tactics and strike means beyond imagination if they ever dare to set a fire," said a statement from a state body called the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.
But as of Friday morning no unusual movements by the North had been detected, a JCS spokesman told AFP.
A multinational investigation concluded in May that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed the warship.
Washington has announced new sanctions on the North to punish it for the alleged attack and to push it to scrap its nuclear weapons programme.
But the Obama administration on Thursday stopped short of putting Pyongyang back on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism, despite pressure from lawmakers to do so.
Then-US president George W. Bush de-listed North Korea in 2008 after it vowed to end its nuclear programme, agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and pledged to disable its nuclear plants.