Seoul Plans Another Drill In Contested Seas

"(WSJ)
South Korea said Thursday it would test-fire artillery in the next few days from the Yellow Sea island that North Korea attacked last month, in an assertion of its territorial rights and a challenge to Pyongyang's aggression.

North Korea last week cited a similar artillery drill on the island, called Yeonpyeong, as the reason it opened fire Nov. 23 in what was the first attack on South Korean land by the North since the Korean War of the 1950s.The barrage killed four South Koreans, destroyed more than 30 homes and damaged nearly every building in the island's main village, which was home to 1,400 people. Most residents still haven't moved back.

South Korean defense officials said the test would happen sometime between Saturday and Tuesday, depending on weather conditions. They said it would be announced ahead of time and that reporters and observers from the United Nations Command, responsible for overseeing the 1953 armistice agreement that ended hostilities between the North and South, would be invited.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said artillery guns on the island would be aimed south to southwest, away from North Korea, as they usually are during such tests. They reiterated that they would ""react firmly and strongly"" to any North Korean provocations.

The openness of the test is designed, in part, to counter potential claims by North Korea that it might be targeted.

The Obama administration said Thursday that it has been in close coordination with South Korea about its plans to hold live-fire drills and that it doesn't oppose them or see them as provocative.

""These are routine exercises. There's nothing, you know, provocative or unusual or threatening about [them],"" State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. ""The North Koreans have been notified about what South Korea plans to do."" "