South Korea conducted live-fire artillery exercises on Tuesday on two frontline islands near the tense border with North Korea, including one that was hit by a deadly barrage from the North in November.
The one-day “regular” exercises went ahead on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands in the Yellow Sea without incident, a defense ministry spokesman told AFP without giving details.
The Yonhap News Agency, quoting military sources, said that marines would fire K-9 self-propelled howitzers, Vulcan cannons and 81-millimeter mortars during the two-hour drill.
The exercises were observed and supported by about 16 US military officers, including intelligence and artillery experts, US military authorities said in a statement.
“These exercises are defensive in nature and designed to further deter North Korean provocations and to be strongly prepared if that deterrence fails,” general Walter L. Sharp, commander of some 28,500 US troops in South Korea, was quoted as saying.
A similar South Korean drill in November was answered by a North Korean artillery and rocket attack on Yeonpyeong island that killed two marines and two civilians.
Tuesday’s drills were the second live-fire exercise on the two islands this year. The previous one passed without incident despite threats from the North to hit back.
Separately, South Korean prosecutors said on Tuesday that the North was to blame for a cyber attack that paralysed operations last month at one of South Korea’s largest banks.
The North brought down the computer system of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, or Nonghyup, by hacking into a laptop of a computer security official and turning it into a remotely operated “zombie computer,” the Seoul prosecutors’ office said.
“This was unprecedented cyber-terrorism deliberately planned and premeditated… and involving North Korea,” the office said.