North Korea is preparing for a large-scale landing exercise ahead of joint annual South Korea-U.S. military drills next month.
"We've detected signs that the North is preparing for a massive landing drill in Nampo on the west coast since two to three weeks ago," a government source here said Monday.
The North protests vociferously against South Korea-U.S. drills every year and has apparently now decided to stage a drill of its own.
Recently, the North has been transporting arms and equipment to Nampo and carrying out a preliminary exercise by firing rockets from 122 mm rocket launchers and howitzer shells into the West Sea.
Early this month, the North staged a landing exercise involving the Army, Navy and Air Force near Wonsan, Kangwon Province, mobilizing submarines, artillery guns, fighter jets, and bombers under the watchful eyes of leader Kim Jong-un himself.
It apparently aimed at practicing to hit the South Korean Spike missile bases on Baeknyeong and Yeonpyeong islands. The Israeli-made Spikes with a range of 25 km are deployed to hit the North's coastal artillery pieces in an emergency.
"The upcoming landing exercise on the west coast could be smaller in scale than the earlier landing drill," a military source speculated.
Meanwhile, the North on Sunday shifted the blame for any future provocation firmly to the South.
A spokesman for the National Defense Commission said, "We have already done what we can do to improve inter-Korean relations through an important proposal and an open letter in January, a special proposal in June, and a [North Korean] government statement in July. Now, all that is left is what choice to make."