12/22/2010, 00.00
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New military drills by South Korea raise tensions

Four days of war games on land and in the sea, a few kilometres from the intra-Korean border, are raising tensions between the two Koreas.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tensions are rising again on the Korean Peninsula after a few days of apparent calm. A statement by South Korean Navy has confirmed that it was starting a four-day drill off its eastern coast, in the Sea of Japan, as a “show of force”.

The war games will take about a 100 kilometres from the border with North Korea and will involve six warships and helicopters. The goal is test South Korea’s war readiness in case of action by North Korean ships and subs inside southern territorial waters.

A spokesperson for South Korea's military said it would also conduct a major ground and air live-fire exercise at Pocheon, 20 kilometres south of the border, with 800 soldiers, helicopters, six fighter jets and tanks as well as anti-tank missiles, mobile artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

Tomorrow’s drill at the Pocheon range would "demonstrate our solid military preparedness,” First Armoured Battalion commander Choo Eun-Sik told the Yonhap news agency. “We will retaliate thoroughly if the North commits another provocative act.”

On 23 November, North Korea fired 170 live artillery shells at Yeonpyeong Island. This was the first time that a civilian area was hit since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Four South Koreans were killed in the incident.

China's deputy UN ambassador Wang Min told a Security Council debate with youth that tensions between the North and South were very high and that the two sides “came close to fighting a war.”

Pyongyang, which is using military tensions to prepare the way for the rise of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s third son, as his successor, recently refrained from retaliating against joint South Korea-United States war games.

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