S. Korea ends anti-submarine drill
By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea ended a five-day-long anti-submarine drill in waters off the west coast Monday, amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Perhaps as retaliation, North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat in waters off the east coast, Sunday. Four South Koreans and three Chinese crew members were aboard the 41-ton Daeseung 55 that was presumed to be inside the North's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) at the time.
South Korea launched the five-day naval drill on Thursday in response to the North's sinking of the warship Cheonan in March, an attack in waters near the western sea border that left 46 sailors dead.
The maneuvers, Seoul’s largest-ever exercise in the West Sea, were designed as a show of force and a warning against future provocation by Pyongyang.
The exercise came less than two weeks after South Korea and the United States conducted joint naval and air exercises in the East Sea to deter North Korea from future provocation and to display the solidarity of their military alliance.
Some 4,500 men and women from all four branches of the military were mobilized for the drill that also involved the 14,000-ton Dokdo amphibious landing ship, 1,800-ton submarines and the 4,500-ton Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin Class KDX-II destroyers.
About 50 fighter jets were also flying missions.
“The exercise this time, which was conducted jointly by the Army, Navy, Air force and Marines, was more intensive than ever and is believed to have achieved our intended goals,” an official at the Ministry of National Defense said.
Monday's drill included a submarine search based on a scenario assuming that a North Korean vessel had infiltrated into southern waters as in the March disaster. Three 1,200-ton and 1,800-ton submarines were involved, the official said.
Later in the day, South Korean troops conducted an artillery drill on South Korea's northernmost island of Baengnyeong near the sea border.
Pyongyang does not recognize the border, drawn by the United Nations at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and claims the line should be redrawn further south.
North Korea has denied any role in the sinking of the Cheonan.
In the run-up to the exercise, the North's military command overseeing the Yellow Sea border said it would “return fire for fire” with "powerful physical retaliation.” On Saturday, the North’s Rodong Shinmun said that their vow to “physically retaliate” against the drill in the West Sea was not an empty one.