S. Korea to hold drill ahead of shelling anniversary

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea will this week carry out an intensive military drill to mark the anniversary of the shelling of a border island by North Korea three years ago, defence chiefs said on Thursday.

The nation's army, navy, air force and marine corps will simulate various North Korean attack scenarios on Yeonpyeong Island, in memory of the incident in which four people were killed in November 2010, officials said.

"The exercise is aimed to remember the 2010 shelling provocation by the North military and bolster our military's defence capability and determination to crush the enemy," the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

In the drill, simulated bombardment from the North will be countered by shelling from the South's self-propelled gun batteries on Yeonpyeong island, which lies just 1.5 kilometres from the disputed Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas.

Jet fighters and warships will be deployed to fire on simulated targets, officials said.

The exercise will also test a new emergency response system introduced after the Yeonpyeong attack to train military forces to respond promptly to provocations.

The attack on Yeonpyeong island on November 23 2010 killed two South Korean marines and two civilians in one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Most islanders fled to the mainland after the attacks but have since returned home.

The island bristles with new fortifications, a three-fold increase in troop numbers and regular wails of sirens signalling attack warning drills.

The maritime boundary - the scene of bloody clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009 - is not recognised by Pyongyang, which argues it was unilaterally drawn by the US-led United Nations forces after the Korean war.