November 21, 2014 11:30
North and South Korea have been bolstering troops and weapons along the western coast following the North's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.
The South upgraded the firepower of artillery units along the west coast shortly after the provocation and is now focusing on drones and tactical airships to deploy in the tense region bordering North Korea.
A military source said Thursday, "We're in the process of procuring a mid- to high-altitude drone that is more advanced than the unmanned reconnaissance aircraft we currently possess." The source added a final decision will be made next month to choose one of two Israeli drones under consideration.
The drones are capable of staying airborne for more than a day and are expected to improve monitoring of the area. A kite-shaped tactical airship that can monitor North Korean military movements around the clock at an altitude of several kilometers will be deployed in the first half of 2015.
The military established a tactical command in 2011 to oversee the defense of the West Sea islands and deployed around 1,200 more troops to the region.
K-9 self-propelled howitzers were the only weapons stationed on Yeonpyeong Island during the North Korean shelling, and now there are four times as many, while multiple launch rocket systems, state-of-the-art anti-artillery radar systems and Cobra attack helicopters were also stationed there.
The military deployed Israeli-made portable Spike missiles to the area last year in order to take out North Korean artillery bunkers hidden along its mountainous coast, while low-altitude radar systems and portable surface-to-air missiles were also stationed on the island.
North Korea stationed between 50 to 60 more 122 mm artillery cannons along the coast of Hwanghae Province. They have a range of 20 km and are capable of hitting South Korea's five West Sea islands.
The North also deployed scores of Mi-2 helicopters at an airbase near the maritime border that can fly at low altitudes and carry special forces across the border without being detected by conventional radar.
North Korea also built a naval base near Baeknyeong Island that can house between 60 to 70 hovercraft.
Meanwhile, memorial events will be held across the nation on Sunday to mark the fourth anniversary of the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs has invited around 4,500 guests, including the families of soldiers and civilians who died during the incident, to a ceremony at the War Memorial in Yongsan.
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