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SKorea stages anti-submarine drill amid tension

 South Korean soldiers man a guard post in Gangneung, east of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. North Korea threatened Wednesday to block a...
 North Korean soldiers on a boat pass by a Chinese border guard post as they tour the Yalu river along the banks of Dandong in northeast China's Liaon...
 A North Korean solider stands next to a motorcycle along the river banks of Sinuiju in North Korea, seen from along the Yalu river near Dandong, nort...
 U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, salutes after he offered flowers on the Books of Remembrance which lists the 33,870 A...
 North Korean soldiers on board tour the Yalu river along the banks of Dandong in northeast China's Liaoning province, Thursday, May 27, 2010.  Rising...
 U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, delivers a speech during the Memorial Day Honor Guard Ceremony at Knight Field, a U.S...
 U.S. and South Korean soldiers salute during the Memorial Day Honor Guard Ceremony at Knight Field, a U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea, Thurs...

South Korea Ship Sinks

South Korean soldiers man a guard post in Gangneung, east of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, May 26, 2010. North Korea threatened Wednesday to block a...

China Koreas Beijing's Bind

North Korean soldiers on a boat pass by a Chinese border guard post as they tour the Yalu river along the banks of Dandong in northeast China's Liaon...

China Koreas Beijing's Bind

A North Korean solider stands next to a motorcycle along the river banks of Sinuiju in North Korea, seen from along the Yalu river near Dandong, nort...

South Korea Ship Sinks

U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, salutes after he offered flowers on the Books of Remembrance which lists the 33,870 A...

China Koreas Beijing's Bind

North Korean soldiers on board tour the Yalu river along the banks of Dandong in northeast China's Liaoning province, Thursday, May 27, 2010. Rising...

South Korea Ship Sinks

U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, delivers a speech during the Memorial Day Honor Guard Ceremony at Knight Field, a U.S...

South Korea Ship Sinks

U.S. and South Korean soldiers salute during the Memorial Day Honor Guard Ceremony at Knight Field, a U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea, Thurs...

A fleet of South Korean warships fired artillery and dropped anti-submarine bombs Thursday in a large-scale military exercise off the west coast despite North Korea's warnings that such drills will drive the peninsula to the brink of war.
Tension on the divided peninsula has risen dramatically since a team of international investigators said last week that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine tore apart and sank a South Korean warship on March 26, killing 46 sailors. South Korean and U.S. troops are on their highest alert since North Korea's second nuclear test in May last year, reports said Thursday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the world to respond to the sinking with a "strong but measured response," calling it an "unacceptable provocation by North Korea" in Seoul on Wednesday.
South Korea, backed by the U.S., Japan and other allies, has begun carrying out punitive measures that range from slashing trade and resuming propaganda warfare to barring the North's cargo ships _ the strongest it can implement short of military action.
North Korea _ which flatly denies involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan _ responded by threatening to cut ties with South Korea, wage "all-out counterattacks" against psychological warfare operations and bar South Korean ships and airliners from its waters and airspace.
"We will never tolerate the slightest provocations of our enemies, and will answer to that with all-out war," North Korean Maj. Gen. Pak Chan Su, a Korean War veteran, told broadcaster APTN in Pyongyang. "This is the firm standpoint of our People's Army."
South Korea pressed ahead Thursday with anti-submarine drills to boost readiness against any North Korean provocations.
Ten warships, including a 3,500-ton destroyer, fired artillery and other naval guns and dropped anti-submarine bombs off Taean, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) south of Seoul, as part of a one-day exercise, the navy said.
It was the first anti-submarine drill since the Cheonan disaster about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north, a navy official said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
South Korea also is planning two major joint military drills with the U.S. off the west coast by July in a display of force intended to deter future aggression by North Korea, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korean state media, citing the drills, criticized South Korea Wednesday for "driving the situation to the brink of explosion."
The North's military also warned it would ban the passage of South Korean personnel and vehicles to an inter-Korean factory park in the North if Seoul does not stop psychological warfare operations. It also said it would "blow up" any propaganda loudspeakers South Korea installs at the border.
Gen. Walter Sharp, chief of the 28,500 American troops in South Korea, said the United States, South Korea and other members of the U.N. Command "will sustain our efforts to deter and defeat aggression."
"We call on North Korea to cease all acts of provocation and to live up with the terms of past agreements, including the armistice agreement," Sharp said Thursday during a Memorial Day speech.
The U.S. fought on the South Korean side during the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. North Korea has long demanded a permanent peace agreement.
South Korean media reported that the combined forces command led by Sharp raised its surveillance level, called Watch Condition, up a level from 3 to 2. Level 1 is the highest.
The increased alert level means U.S. spy satellites and U-2 spy planes would intensify their reconnaissance of North Korea, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unidentified South Korean official.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries would not confirm any reports on changes to the level. If confirmed, it would be the first change since North Korea carried out a nuclear test in May 2009, a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
South Korea's military said Thursday there were no signs of unusual activity by North Korean troops.
South Korea wants to bring North Korea before the U.N. Security Council over the sinking. The U.S., which backs the bid, says evidence of the North's culpability in the sinking is overwhelming. North Korea ally China, however, says it is still weighing evidence.
Senior U.S. officials speaking after strategic talks this week in Beijing predicted that China will gradually endorse the view that North Korea should be held accountable for the torpedo attack. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.
___
Associated Press writer Matthew Lee at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-24 18:35 GMT+08:00