Baengnyeong barracks built for U.S. soldiers

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Baengnyeong barracks built for U.S. soldiers

South Korea’s military plans to build a barracks on a front-line island in the Yellow Sea near North Korea to house U.S. troops in case of an emergency or military drills, a government source said yesterday, as the allies beef up their guard to thwart potential attacks by the North.

The South’s military will start building the new barracks, which can accommodate some 160 soldiers, from next year on Baengnyeong Island and construction will be completed by 2013, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

“As part of efforts to strengthen defense on the Yellow Sea islands, the new barracks will be used by U.S. troops during joint military drills or in case of an emergency,” the source said.

Inter-Korean tensions persist following North Korea’s two deadly attacks on South Korea last year. The North sank a South Korean warship and bombarded one of its border islands near the volatile Yellow Sea border, killing 50 people, including two civilians.

In particular, the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, near Baengnyeong, marked its first direct attack aimed at South Korean territory since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Since the November shelling on Yeonpyeong, South Korea’s military has deployed high-tech weapons and more troops to guard its five islands along the Yellow Sea border.

In July this year, South Korean and U.S. marines conducted their first joint drill near Baengnyeong.

The source said that the allies have been in talks to stage more joint drills near the sea border from next year.

“We have been in consultations with the U.S. military to strengthen joint maneuvers from next year,” the source said.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.

The Yellow Sea border, called the Northern Limit Line (NLL), was drawn by UN forces at the end of the Korean War. North Korea has never recognized the NLL, demanding that it be redrawn further south.

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