ROK holds massive new drills

POCHEON. December 23. KAZINFORM The Republic of Korea (ROK) mobilized troops, tanks, helicopters and fighter jets Thursday for its largest air and ground drills this year; Kazinform refers to China Daily.

The drills, set to take place at training grounds in mountainous Pocheon near the two countries' heavily fortified border, signaled ROK's determination to demonstrate and hone its military strength at the risk of further escalation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

A helicopter hovered overhead and military music played over the loudspeakers as troops geared up for the drills. A thick fog hung over the area, which lies about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the North Korean border in an area dotted with ski resorts.

Exactly one month ago, routine ROK live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea triggered a shower of DPRK artillery that killed two marines and two construction workers. It was the first military attack on a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

The DPRK, which claims the waters around the ROK-held island lying just 7 miles (11 kilometers) from its shores as its territory, accused ROK of sparking the exchange by ignoring Pyongyang's warnings against staging the live-fire drills near their disputed maritime border.

Amid international concerns of all-out war on the tense Korean peninsula, the ROK has pushed ahead with military exercises over the past several weeks, including live-fire drills from Yeonpyeong Island and Monday's land-based exercises.

Thursday's drills will be the largest-scale firing exercise jointly staged by ROK's army and air force this year, and the biggest-ever wintertime air and ground firing exercises, government and army officials said on condition of anonymity citing department rules.

Forty-seven similar exercises have taken place this year but Thursday's maneuvers were scheduled in response to the DPRK attack, according to army officials; Kazinform cites China Daily.

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