South Korea to Conduct Maritime Firing Drills

Navies of S. Korea and U.S. have intensified joint drills around the peninsula after North Korean attack on the island of Yeonpyeong in November.

The South Korean military is to carry out firing exercises around the country's three coastlines, but would avoid the islands close to the disputed maritime border with the North, officials were quoted as saying Sunday by a news report.

The drills were planned for December 13 to 17 all around the South's part of the peninsula, except the area of Yeonpyeong and five other islands near the contested border, the South's Yonhap News Agency said.

South Korea fishing boat

On November 23, North Korean artillery fired over 100 shells at Yeonpyeong, leaving two soldiers and two civilians dead and injuring 18 people.

Since the incident, the navies of South Korea and its ally the United States have intensified their joint drills around the peninsula, and Seoul has for the first time sent observers to joint US-Japan maritime drills.

Washington, Seoul and Japan have also held high-level diplomatic and military talks in recent weeks about how to address North Korea's increasing belligerence.

North Korea has said the shelling of Yeonpyeong was in response to provocative military manoeuvres by the United States and South Korea.

Pyongyang does not recognize the border in the Yellow Sea, saying it was unilaterally drawn up by the US after the ceasefire which ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

In the absence of a formal peace treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.