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Asia

South Korea gears up for largest-ever live-fire drill

The South Korean army has announced another set of live military drills for Thursday. The ground and air firing exercises will take place at a firing range in Pocheon, some 20 kilometers away from the mainland border.

South Korea's commanders want to demonstrate their solid military preparedness

South Korea's commanders want to demonstrate their "solid military preparedness"

Just as the South Korean army announced more maneuvers for Thursday, the navy began a four-day exercise just off its eastern coast, some 100 kilometers away from the disputed sea border with the North.

Tension has been high on the peninsula since North Korea’s attack last month of the island of Yeonpyeong that killed four South Koreans, including two civilians.

"We will retaliate thoroughly if the North commits another provocative act like the shelling of Yeonpyeong," First Armored Battalion commander Choo Eun-Sik told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Meanwhile, a senior South Korean military commander said that the drill on Thursday at the Pocheon range would "demonstrate our solid military preparedness."

North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island near the disputed sea border last month

North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island near the disputed sea border last month

'No need to retaliate against every provocation'

On Monday, the South Korean navy carried out a live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong despite repeated warnings from the North that it would hit back, but Pyongyang issued a statement saying it "did not feel the need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation."

Although Pyongyang's failure to retaliate triggered a brief sigh of relief in South Korea, there is still a strong sense of apprehension.

Skepticism about Pyongyang's sincerity

Neither Seoul nor Washington has reacted positively to apparent overtures by Pyongyang. US troubleshooter Bill Richardson said on Monday that the North had agreed to allow international nuclear inspectors back in the country, but these reports were not confirmed.

South Korean marines stand guard on Yeonpyeong island

South Korean marines stand guard on Yeonpyeong island

US President Barack Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs also expressed doubts that North Korea wanted to come back to the negotiating table for denuclearization talks.

"We're not going to get a table and a room and have six-party talks just for the feel-good notion of having six-party talks,” Gibbs said. "When and if the North Koreans are ever serious about living up to their obligations, then we can think about restarting six-party talks."

Author: Anne Thomas (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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