|Anti-war demonstrators in South Korea, 28th February|
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
South Korea begins military exercises despite North Korean warnings
The drills will last 11 days and will involve computer war games and live-fire exercises. The aim of the drills is to prepare South Korea for an attack by the North. It is also a rehearsal for emergency deployments of US forces in the event of a sudden attack on South Korea.
The drills continued after the incident, raising tension on the divided peninsula to the highest level in years. Tension has been high since March 2010 when a South Korean warship was sunk, killing all 46 sailors on board. A Seoul-led international investigation blamed North Korea, a charge which Pyongyang denies.
Hours after the exercises started, North Korea warned of nuclear war.
On Sunday, North Korea said that if provoked, its military would turn Seoul into a 'sea of flames' and would start a full-scale war with 'merciless' counterattacks.
Not everyone in the South supports the drills, however. On Monday, about 20 anti-war activists rallied near a joint force command near Seoul, urging the South and the US to immediately halt the drills and resume talks with the North Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly pushed for talks, but when military officers from both sides met earlier this month, they failed to make any progress and a date for the next round of talks was not set.
The White House immediately countered by saying the US has no plans to bring tactical nuclear weapons back to the South, saying Washington continues to support a non-nuclear peninsula.
The maritime border is the UN-designated Northern Limit Line, which Pyongyang believes restricts their access to marine territory. Indeed, it gives them a 3-mile territorial sea, even though the international norm is 12 miles. Since 1999, the North has been arguing in favour of a more southerly 'West Sea Military Demarcation'.
The military exercises that were carried out in November took place in this disputed area, and therefore it was unsurprising that the North reacted. It is not yet clear if this latest round of exercises will also take place in the area.
Sources: The Guardian, BBC News, Voice of America, The Korea Herald
For more information, see the Menas Borders website, here.