South Korea will mount a much deeper and stronger counterstrike than any before in the event of North Korea launching an artillery attack, a senior military official said Tuesday, as Pyongyang toughens its rhetoric against ongoing annual military drills in the South.
South Korea and the United States on Monday began an annual military exercise that will run through Aug. 31, mobilizing some 56,000 South Korean troops and about 30,000 U.S. soldiers. The Combined Forces Command said it informed the North the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise is "defensive in nature," but Pyongyang decries it as "drills for a war" against the North.
During the largely computer-simulated exercise, the joint forces practice counterattack procedures that have been strengthened in the wake of the North's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean border island in 2010, the senior official said.
"The military will immediately strike the sources of attack, its supporting and commanding forces as well as corresponding targets in the event of an attack," the official said, asking anonymity as he is not authorized to talk about military information. "It is an expression of our intention to devastate the source of attacks and its surroundings if the North provokes again, in a bid to prevent it from launching an additional attack."
South Korea has strengthened its rules of engagement after two deadly attacks by the North in 2010, and now calls for an immediate strike against "the sources of attack as well as its supporting forces" if attacked.
North Korea has increased its hostile rhetoric, with leader Kim Jong-un visiting and lauding an army unit responsible for the 2010 artillery strike. Kim told the soldiers to prepare for "sacred war" should "even a single shell" hit the country's territory, according to state media.
The Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed here to deter against the North Korean threat. (Yonhap)