An anti-submarine drill kicks off in the West Sea on Thursday in response to North Korea's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan in March, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.
The Korean Navy is staging its own anti-submarine exercises after plans to run a joint drill with the U.S. in the West Sea were frustrated by Chinese objections. It is mobilizing 29 ships including the 14,000-ton landing ship Dokdo, the 4,500-ton KDX-Ⅱ destroyer, a 2143-class 1,800-ton submarine, about 50 aircraft, including the Air Force's KF-16 fighter jets, the Navy's Lynx helicopters and the Army's AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, and some 45,000 personnel, a JCS spokesman said.
The five-day drill includes a live-fire exercise, which takes place in waters near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border with the North. It involves naval artillery and depth charge near the site where the Cheonan was sunken southwest of Baeknyeong Island, and self-propelled artillery like K-9 guns near Baeknyeong and Yeonpeyong islands.
But a military source said they will be fired not at the NLL but in the opposite direction to avoid provoking Pyongyang.
Thursday sees an exercise in tracking down enemy submarines following a tactical maneuver drill. Battles with enemy submarines, responding to attacks from enemy coastal artillery guns, and repelling enemy maritime commandos will be practiced on Friday.
An anti-aircraft fire drill and nocturnal battle drill with enemy submarines are planned for the third day, and a fire drill and torpedo-tracking drill for the fourth. The military will also practice sinking a high-speed hovercraft equipped with a 57 mm gun.
"The drills will be staged within our areas of operation in the West Sea. They will be staged on the ground, at sea and in the air," Rear Adm. Kim Kyung-sik, the JCS's chief of operations, told reporters.
Earlier, on Tuesday, North Korea sent a message to the South Korean military, calling the drills a "blatant act of military invasion" and threatening to mount a "strong physical counterattack."