South Korea will stage live-fire artillery exercises in the coming week on two frontline islands including one hit by a deadly North Korean shelling last November, according to an April 30 news report.
A defense ministry spokesman said that regular military exercises will be carried out on the islands, but he declined to give further details on the timing or whether live-fire drills will be carried out.
Dong-A Ilbo daily said South Korean Marines will fire K9 self-propelled howitzers, Vulcan cannons and 81mm mortars deployed on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, both located near the tense Yellow Sea border.
About 10 U.S. military regiment and battalion commanders will attend the exercises as observers, it said.
Based on Okinawa, U.S. military commanders have been taking part in an annual exercise north of Seoul rehearsing the deployment of U.S. reinforcements in the event of conflict, the daily said.
In November, a South Korean live-fire artillery drill from Yeonpyeong island, which dropped shells into waters claimed by both Koreas, was followed by shelling of the island by the North, which killed four people.
The May 3 drills will be the second live-fire exercise on the islands this year. The previous drills passed without incident despite threats from the North to hit back.
Tensions along the disputed border have been acute since the shelling, which marked the first attack on a civilian area in the South since the 1950-53 war.
The shelling brought icy relations to a new low. The South accused the North of torpedoing a warship near the Yellow Sea border in March 2010 with the loss of 46 South Korean sailors. The North denies involvement in the sinking.