South Korea Begins Massive Anti-Submarine Drills

In a move that is antagonizing North Korea and irking China, South Korea commenced a major naval exercise in the Yellow Sea Thursday, the largest since 46 South Korean sailors died in March in the sinking of a warship. The five-day exercise involves some 4,500 personnel and all four branches of the military, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Seoul, which oversaw an international investigation into the March sinking of the Cheonan, claims a North Korean submarine sank the corvette and is demanding an apology. A multinational investigation also found North Korea responsible. Pyongyang has vehemently denied the accusation. Prior to the Cheonan's sinking, the South Korean navy had largely discounted the threat of submarines in the Yellow Sea, due to the shallow waters in the area. North Korea said via state media that it would undertake "strong physical retaliation" and warned fishermen to stay clear of the Northern Limit Line, the disputed maritime border between the Koreas. The drills amount to an "undisguised military intrusion," Pyongyang has said. "The army and people of the DPRK are closely watching every move of [South Korean President] Lee Myung-bak's group of traitors. And if the puppet warmongers dare ignite a war, they will mercilessly destroy the provokers and their stronghold by mobilizing most powerful war tactics and offensive means beyond imagination," the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said, according to North Korea's state-run news agency KCNA. "Raising issue with the legitimate, defensive exercise is a provocation in itself," South Korean Rear Adm. Kim Kyung-sik retorted Wednesday, speaking to local reporters. Meanwhile, China, which has refused to condemn North Korea over the alleged torpedo attack and which remains Pyongyang's closest strategic ally, is reportedly carrying out air defense drills on its Yellow Sea coast across from the Korean peninsula. Given North Korea's decrepit military, experts