By Jung Sung-ki
North Korea has bolstered its live artillery fire exercises and fighter jet training near the western sea border with South Korea since it declared an ``all-out confrontational posture'' against the South in January, a report said Friday.
``The North appears to have doubled its live-fire artillery training exercise near the North Korean western coastline from the same period a year earlier,'' a Marine official was quoted by Yonhap News agency as saying, adding that gun positions have frequently been seen.
This year, the North is believed to have conducted 19 live-fire exercises at an island near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the sea borderline between the two Koreas in the West Sea.
North Korea is said to have deployed thousands of weapons hidden in mountain caves and tunnels near the inter-Korean border. The artillery puts South Korea's capital area within target range.
The North Korean army is deploying about eight 27-kilometer-range 130mm guns and eight other 76.2mm artillery units with a range of 12 kilometers on islands located just north of the NLL, according to Marine officials.
Pyongyang is also believed to be deploying about 100 152mm howitzer guns with a range of 17 kilometers near the Haeju port.
North Korea's air force has also increased its flight training over the western border, the officials said.
The number of sorties by North Korean aircraft rose six times from a year earlier, and about 100 fighter jets and surveillance airplanes took off from bases south of Pyongyang on April 7, just two days after Pyongyang went ahead with a rocket launch that Seoul and Washington say was, in fact, a missile test, according to Yonhap.
Nearly 70 percent, or 1,100, of all aircraft activities below Pyongyang originated from a coastline airbase in Kwail this year, it said.
South Korean Marines activate and load their shoreline Vulcan cannons every time a North Korean airplane flies within a radius of 40 miles (64 kilometers), the report said.