Massive land, air drill near border

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Massive land, air drill near border

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South Korea K1 tanks fire live rounds yesterday at the Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the North Korean border. [AP/YONHAP]


The Army and Air Force conducted one of its largest-ever joint firing drills on land yesterday in Pocheon, Gyeonggi, in the latest in a series of military exercises in response to the recent shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. The drill included F-15K Air Force fighter jets firing at targets on the ground and in the air, simulating the defense against a North Korean attack.

With 105 types of weaponry in use in the 800-man drill, the exercise came to a close at 3:30 p.m. with no apparent response from the North.

The South Korean military also lowered its alert level from Jindotgae 1 to Jindotgae 2 yesterday, the Ministry of National Defense said, after observing the North’s military movements.

But the ministry said the surveillance level toward the North remained the same at Watchcon 2, the second-highest on a five-grade scale, which was raised from Watchcon 3 after last month’s Yeonpyeong attack. The military defense level for the western border islands also remained unchanged.

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President Lee Myung-bak views North Korea from an observation post on the eastern border. [YONHAP]

The exercise was criticized by the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper owned by the People’s Daily, the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper, which said yesterday that the extensive drills being carried out on land, sea and air in South Korea were tempting North Korea to retaliate.

The paper went on to praise North Korea for “showing restraint,” and stated that the Korean Peninsula was in peril after South Korea’s decision to carry out more exercises.

As the South Korean military demonstrated its firepower on land and in the air, President Lee Myung-bak paid a visit yesterday to troops of the 21st Infantry Division, also known as the Mount Baekdu unit, located on the front lines in Gangwon. The base is a mere 750 meters (2,461 feet) from North Korean territory.

Lee arrived on helicopter at the base at 11:40 a.m. and was briefed on real-time observations of a North Korean military border base.

“We do not attack first, but we should respond strongly to keep the peace when attacked,” Lee told soldiers. “Who will protect our country at this time? We must do it ourselves.

“When we are one, North Korea’s will to provoke is weakened. We can block the North’s provocations by responding firmly and uniting.”


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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