December 21, 2010 07:59
There was widespread relief Monday when an artillery drill in the West Sea ended without the threatened retaliation from North Korea or any other noticeable rise in tensions. The military fired live rounds on Yeonpyeong Island for an hour and 34 minutes, but fears of another North Korean strike proved unfounded.
However, the military is staying on high alert for the time being, monitoring North Korea for signs of additional provocations after the North deployed multiple rocket launchers in areas on the west coast near Yeonpyeong Island and readying coastal artillery.
A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday said the maritime fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island started around 2:30 p.m. and came to a complete stop around 4:04 p.m., ending with a Vulcan gun firing."
The marine unit on the island fired about 1,600 rounds, including four rounds of K-9 self-propelled guns and 1,500 Vulcan gun shells.
A military source said, "We had difficulty because the sea fog didn't lift completely until the afternoon, but we went ahead with for fear of problems that might arise if we delayed any further."
In response to the South Korean drill, the North apparently deployed a battalion of 18 122-mm multiple rocket launchers in Kaemori north of Yeonpyeong as it did prior to its artillery attack on Nov. 23. It also reportedly set up several decoys near Baeknyeong and Yeonpyeong islands.
Some dozen warships including South Korea's first Aegis destroyer the 7,600-ton King Sejong the Great and two Korean-type 4,500-ton KDX-Ⅱ destroyers took part in waters south of the island. They were also ready to order a sortie of F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets to strike in case of a North Korean attack.
Support troops from the U.S. Forces Korea will reportedly stay there for the time being to watch the North Koreans movements.
After the drill ended, JCS Chairman Gen. Han Min-koo warned, the North "can attack at any time" and ordered all operations commands to "check preparedness for contingency plans so they can respond to any provocations no matter when and where they happen."
The North is closely watching a giant steel Christmas tree set up by the South Korean military across the demilitarized zone in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, apparently with an eye to shooting at it once it is switched on Wednesday.
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