South Korea Says It Will Hold Large Land And Air Drills Thursday

Tensions rippled across the Korean peninsula as South Korea geared up for its largest land and air winter drills on Thursday, maneuvers choreographed in the shadow of its reclusive tough-talking communist neighbor.

The South Korean army said Wednesday that the long-planned drills will be held just 15 miles from its longtime adversary North Korea, whose nuclear aspirations strike worry in Seoul and in capitals across the world.

More than 800 military personnel will take part in the exercise in Pocheon, a media officer from the South Korean army said, and it will include six fighter jets, anti-tank missiles, and involve more than 100 types of weapons.

The drills -- scheduled in 2009 -- come at a time when the country is on high-alert, after Pyongyang shelled a South Korean island in the Yellow Sea that resulted in four deaths.

And, the hostilities come as North Korea is undergoing a transition -- the ailing leader Kim Jong Il is believed to be in the process of transferring power to his son, Kim Jong Un. Some analysts believe the upcoming internal changes have prompted the North to flex its military muscle.After Japan's defeat in World War II, Korea became a divided nation, the free-enterprise South and the communist North.

Over the past six decades, small-scale skirmishes have flared repeatedly along both land and sea borders as each state aimed to reunify the peninsula according to its own terms and system of government. Deadly naval clashes have occurred along the demarcation line in 1999, 2002 and 2009."