South Korea begins largest anti-submarine drills ever, despite North Korea threats
South Korea has 4,500 service members from all military branches engaged in five days of antisubmarine drills. North Korea has threatened to retaliate.
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With 4,500 service members from all four branches of the military, this drill reportedly represents the nation’s largest antisubmarine training exercise ever. It is unusual for South Korea to independently conduct exercises of this scope without the involvement of the United States military.
The maneuvers are taking place off the peninsula's west coast where the South Korean warship the Cheonan was sunk in March, killing 46 sailors. A five-nation investigative team concluded in May that a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine was responsible for the disaster, but so far the North has denied any involvement and refuses to apologize.
With tensions between the North and South steadily rising, the naval exercises represent a show of force that the South hopes will deter any military incursions from the North. The message appears to have resonated with the North, which called the training maneuvers a “direct military invasion” that infringed on the Communist nation’s “right to self-defense,” reports the BBC.
Coming less than two weeks after the South's Navy and Air Force conducted joint training exercises with the US off the peninsula's east coast, South Korean officials say that the current training exercise is purely defensive. They have dismissed threats from the North, which has warned of “powerful physical retaliation,” reports China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
“The focus of the exercises is to strengthen our response to the enemy's asymmetric provocations and also our joint operations capabilities,” an official from the South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Yonhap news agency. “We will not tolerate any kind of provocations by the enemy, and the drills will allow us to be fully prepared for combat.”