South Korea to resume border artillery drills after pact suspension with North Korea

by IANS |

Seoul, June 5 (IANS) South Korea is set to restart artillery drills near the Military Demarcation Line and the northwestern border islands as early as this month, military sources said on Wednesday after the country effectively suspended a 2018 inter-Korean tension reduction pact.

On Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol endorsed a motion calling for the "full suspension" of the Comprehensive Military Agreement in response to the North's trash-carrying balloon campaign and GPS jamming attacks in recent days, reports Yonhap news agency.

The move enables South Korea to resume drills to bolster front-line defences. Previously, artillery and naval drills, as well as regiment-level field manoeuvres, were banned due to land and maritime buffer zones set up in the area. No-fly zones had also been designated near the border to prevent accidental aircraft clashes.

Sources said Marine Corps troops stationed in the northwestern border islands plan to carry out firing drills involving K-9 self-propelled howitzers for the first time in nearly six years.

With the exception of live-fire drills held in response to the North's shooting of artillery shells near the two South Korean western border islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong in January, the military had refrained from conducting artillery drills in the area.

The Army is also expected to resume artillery drills in three shooting ranges located in areas previously designated as a land buffer zone.

An Army official said front-line units maintain readiness to carry out artillery drills at the facilities once training plans are established.

North Korea has bristled at artillery drills involving K-9 howitzers in the border area, raising concerns over military tension escalating near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, the de facto western maritime boundary between the two Koreas.

In 2010, the North bombarded the border island of Yeonpyeong, killing two civilians and two Marines.

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