South Korea gears up to stage massive military drills

POCHEON, South Korea — South Korea mobilized troops, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets for its largest-ever wintertime military drills Thursday, a show of force that comes a month after North Korea’s deadly shelling of a front-line island.

South Korean Army soldiers patrol near the seaside in Dangjin

South Korean Army soldiers patrol near the seaside in Dangjin

POCHEON, South Korea — South Korea mobilized troops, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets for its largest-ever wintertime military drills Thursday, a show of force that comes a month after North Korea’s deadly shelling of a front-line island.

The drills, set to begin Thursday afternoon at training grounds in mountainous Pocheon near the Koreas’ heavily fortified border, signalled South Korea’s determination to demonstrate and hone its military strength at the risk of further escalation with North Korea.

Jeeps wove their way up a winding road to the military base, passing armed soldiers and a ski resort where skiers and snowboarders were enjoying fresh snowfall. A thick fog hung over the area.

Exactly one month ago, routine South Korean live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea triggered a shower of North Korean artillery that killed two marines and two construction workers. It was the first military attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

North Korea, which claims the waters around the South Korean-held island lying just 7 miles (11 kilometres) from its shores as its territory, accused the South of sparking the exchange by ignoring Pyongyang’s warnings against staging the live-fire drills near their disputed maritime border.

Amid international concerns of all-out war on the tense Korean peninsula, South Korea has pushed ahead with military exercises over the past several weeks, including live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island and Monday’s land-based exercises.

Thursday’s drills will be the biggest-ever wintertime firing exercises staged by South Korea’s army and air force, a military army statement said.

Forty-seven similar exercises have taken place this year but Thursday’s manoeuvrs were scheduled in response to the North Korean attack, an army officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

“We will thoroughly punish the enemy if it provokes us again as with the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island,” Brig. Gen. Ju Eun-sik, chief of the South Korean army’s 1st Armored Brigade, said in a statement Wednesday.

There was no immediate response from North Korea, which has shown restraint in recent days.

The two Koreas remain technically at war because their 1950s conflict ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

The military tension over the past month has been the worst in more than a decade, and comes on the heels of the March sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul blames on Pyongyang, but which North Korea denies attacking. Forty-six sailors died in that incident.

Thursday’s air force and army drills will involve 800 troops, F-15K and KF-16 jet fighters, K-1 tanks, AH-1S attack helicopters and K-9 self-propelled guns at military training grounds in Pocheon, about 30 miles (45 kilometres) north of Seoul and about 20 miles (30 kilometres) from the North Korean border.

The White House dismissed concerns that the new drills would escalate tensions.

“I think exercises that have been announced well in advance, that are transparent, that are defensive in nature, should in no way engender a response from the North Koreans,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday in Washington.

South Korea’s navy also was conducting annual firing and anti-submarine exercises off the east coast.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was in Red Deer Wednesday and addressed a number of different political topics affecting central Alberta. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Notley talks RDC, UCP draft K-6 curriculum in visit to Red Deer

Rachel Notley had only proposed a solution hours before she arrived in… Continue reading

The Bowden Institution medium security facility near Bowden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Two COVID-19 cases reported at Bowden Institution

Bowden Institution is dealing with two active COVID-19 cases. The positive cases… Continue reading

Photo by RANDY FIEDLER/Advocate staff BUDGET RURAL MEDICINE 2 - Dr. Fred Janke in his Sylvan Lake practice Wednesday. for story
Sylvan Lake doctor formerly accused of child sex crimes can practise again

Crown prosecutors dropped all charges against Dr. Fred Janke last November

Baseball on the Chalk Line of the Infield. Stock image
Innisfail to upgrade ball diamond to feature hardball facility

The Town of Innisfail will soon have a significantly upgraded baseball facility.… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

Letisha Reimer is shown in a photo, part of a memorial to her outside Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov.7, 2016. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver her decision today over whether a man who stabbed two high school students is not criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
Judge to rule on criminal responsibility of man who stabbed two B.C. students

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge is expected… Continue reading

File photo
Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge

SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising Canada will slash its… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country needs a boost… Continue reading

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

One of the world’s largest insurers says Canadians will be more than… Continue reading

A Blanding’s turtle (Gabrielle Fortin/Contributed)
Earth Day: Finding hope in an old sweater

During the pandemic, many of us have spent several months at home.… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says 1.7 million reusable masks have been ordered at a cost of $4.2 million.” (Advocate file photo).
Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

EDMONTON — Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the group representing Alberta teachers… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Most Read