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North Korean Air Force increases training flights

Military exercises are on the rise as tensions escalate

Dec 29,2010
North Korea’s Air Force has launched more training exercises this month compared to the same period last year, in response to large-scale South Korean military drills conducted following the Yeonpyeong Island attack.

The vigor with which the Korean People’s Army Air Force, as it is officially known, has conducted the drills - which included simulated attacks on South Korea - has resulted in the crash of one MiG fighter jet, according to a source. There has been a 150 percent increase in the number of military drills from December 2009, and they have included soldiers from the Army and Navy.

“It shows that the North Korean military has been very tense after the attack on Yeonpyeong Island,” said a South Korean military source.

It is exceptional for North Korea to hold extensive winter flight drills because of a shortage of fuel.

According to sources, while the South Korean Army and Air Force were holding a joint firing drill last week, North Korea was conducting one of its own. Along the coast of South Pyongan Province, adjacent to the Yellow Sea, the North Korean military test-fired 122-mm multiple launch guns, which were used during the Yeonpyeong Island attack, as well as long-range artillery that could hit the Seoul metropolitan area. The artillery firing drills have caught the eye of the South Korean government because they were conducted five times this month.

North Korean artillery battalions along the military demarcation line have been observed practicing attacks on South Korean strongholds, which has led the South Korean military to believe that the North will attack the South’s military camps first in the event of additional provocations along the land border.

Movement near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea has included frequent sightings of North Korean submarines and anti-submarine coastal artillery being brought in further toward the coast. Sources say the reason for North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island and it’s sinking of the Cheonan in March is closely connected to the succession of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Fear of constant military clashes can silence complaints from ordinary citizens and increase heir-apparent Kim Jong-un’s control over the military.

“Artillery firing is one of North Korea’s core tactics against the South,” said professor Kim Yeon-su at the Korea National Defense University. “For Kim Jong-un to gain legitimacy, North Korea thinks it’s important to display its power against the South.”


By Lee Young-jong [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]



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