Posted : 2014-04-29 11:35
Updated : 2014-04-29 16:56

N. Korea conducts live-fire drill near western border

North Korea conducted a live-fire drill near the western maritime border on Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, prompting South Korea to stay on high guard after a similar exercise a month ago sharply raised military tension.

The North began firing off artillery shells starting 2 p.m., hours after notifying the South that it will carry out the exercise in two border regions, north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in Yellow Sea.

Following the announcement, South Korea has stepped up military readiness by dispatching warships and early warning surveillance aircraft, as well as fighter jets, near the area to prepare for a potential clash, officials said.

Residents on five northwestern border islands were advised to take shelter in evacuation centers, the JCS said.

Seoul's defense ministry considered the North's drill in the volatile region as a "provocative act," saying it is looking into Pyongyang's intention behind the exercise.

"The North's conducting shelling drill toward southern waters implies its provocative nature," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "We are carefully monitoring North Korea's exercise to sternly react if any of its shells fall in southern waters."

The North carried out a shelling drill on March 31 near the same region while South Korea and the U.S. were carrying out their annual joint military exercise.

The last exercise sharply stoked tensions as the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire across the western maritime border after some of the North's shells fell into southern waters.

The latest move comes as Pyongyang stepped up its hostile rhetoric after South Korean President Park Geun-hye held a summit talk with U.S. President Barack Obama in Seoul last week.

The two leaders warned that any provocations by North Korea, which is believed to be preparing a fourth nuclear test, would make the communist regime more isolated.

The latest satellite imagery showed heightened activities at the North's main nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, prompting Seoul and Washington to beef up their surveillance and vigilance against a possible atomic test in near future.

Still, it is not yet clear when the unpredictable regime could conduct a test, as activities detected by the satellites could be either signs for final preparations for an underground detonation or a feint aimed at drawing international attention ahead of last week's visit by Obama to South Korea.

"North Korea is ready for an atomic test," spokesman Kim said. "As the North could deceit the timing, the South Korean military has maintained a high level of vigilance."

The North's drill also comes at a time South Korea is grappling with the aftermath a ferry's sinking in the southwestern waters on April 16. The Navy has dispatched its warships, special forces and combat divers to join the search effort to the find more than 100 people still missing, many of whom are believed to be trapped inside the submerged ship. (Yonhap)

관련 한글 기사

北, '서해 NLL 인근 해상 2곳서 오늘 사격훈련' 통보

북한이 서해 북방한계선(NLL) 인근 해상 2곳에서 29일 사격훈련을 실시하겠다는 방침을 우리측에 통보했다. 

합참은 이날 '북한군 서남전선사령부가 오늘 오전 8시52분께 우리 해군 2함대사령부로 전통문을 보내 NLL 인근 사격훈련 계획을 알려왔다'고 밝혔다. 

북한이 통보한 내용은 이날 중 백령도 동방지역인 월래도 지역과 연평도 서북방 지역인 장재도 등 NLL 이북 2개 지역에서 해상 사격훈련을 실시한다는 내용인 것으로 전해졌다.

합참은 '우리 군은 북한이 통보한 사격훈련 지역이 비록 NLL 이북이기는 하나 주민·선박의 안전을 위해 사격훈련 구역 인근으로의 접근을 통제하는 등 안전조치를 실시했고 북한에는 NLL 이남으로 사격하면 강력히 대응할 것임을 통보했다'고 밝혔다.

합참은 또 '우리 군은 북한의 사격훈련 여부와 낙탄 지역을 예의주시하고 있으며, 만반의 대비태세를 갖추고 있다'고 강조했다. 

군 당국은 북한의 NLL 인근 해상사격훈련에 대비해 위기조치반을 가동했고 대비태세를 격상했다. 

합참의 한 관계자는 '해당 지역의 감시를 강화하는 한편 주변 전력에는 만일의 사태에 대비하도록 했다'고 전했다. 

북한군은 백령도와 연평도 북방 지역의 해안포를 개방한 것으로 알려져 조만간 해상사격이 실시될 것으로 예상된다.

북한은 지난달 31일에도 우리측에 NLL 인근 북측 해상으로 사격훈련을 한다고 통보한 이후 당일 낮부터 실제 사격훈련을 실시했다.

당시 북한이 발사한 포탄 중 100여발이 NLL 이남에 떨어지자 우리 군은 NLL 인근 북쪽 해상으로 300여발의 대응사격을 했다. (연합뉴스) 

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