North Korea warns of retaliation for South Korea drill
SEOUL: North Korea’s military warned on Sunday it could bombard islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border with South Korea, accusing Seoul of planning a naval live-fire drill in the area.
The North’s Western Sector Command warned residents of five islands to “evacuate to safe areas” before what it said was the scheduled start time of the exercise on Monday morning.
Pyongyang has taken a hostile tone towards Seoul since Kim Jong-Un, the youngest son of the late leader Kim Jong-Il, took over following the death of his father in December.
In a notice carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency, the military said Seoul’s government “should not forget the lesson” of the North’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong island in November 2010, which killed four South Koreans.
“Once the group of traitors starts a reckless military provocation…the KPA (Korean People’s Army) will promptly make merciless retaliatory strikes,” it said.
The North frequently warns the South against conducting live-fire exercises near the sea border, but there have been no incidents since Yeonpyeong.
A spokesman for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said he was checking whether any such firing drill was scheduled for Monday.
Seoul’s defence ministry said earlier the US and South Korean navies will stage a joint anti-submarine drill in the Yellow Sea from Monday to Friday to guard against potential attacks by the communist state.
But the latest warning from Pyongyang does not appear to be aimed at the joint drill, the JCS spokesman told AFP without elaborating further.
The two countries staged a joint anti-submarine drill in September 2010, months after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship with the loss of 46 lives in the Yellow Sea.
The North denied it sank the ship, but in November that year it shelled Yeonpyeong island, leaving two civilians among the four dead.
Seoul since then has strengthened troops and weaponry on its five frontline islands.
The sea border off the west coast has been the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. The North refuses to recognise the boundary drawn by United Nations forces after the 1950-53 war and insists it should be moved southwards.
The Key Resolve drill between the South and the US will start on February 27 and continue until March 9. Separately, a joint air, ground and naval field training exercise known as Foal Eagle will be held from March 1 to April 30.
North Korea has denounced the exercises as warmongering.