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South Korea carries out military drill despite threats from North

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 20, 2012 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
A South Korean K-1 tank fires live rounds during a military exercise near the border with North Korea on September 30, 2011.
A South Korean K-1 tank fires live rounds during a military exercise near the border with North Korea on September 30, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korea holds a regular artillery drill on islands where tensions have flared before
  • North Korea describes the exercise as a provocation
  • In 2010, the North responded to a drill in the same area by shelling a South Korean island
  • More military exercises by South Korea and the U.S. are scheduled for the coming weeks

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea fired live artillery on Monday in a military drill near the country's heavily armed border with North Korea, which has described the exercise as a provocation.

The drill Monday involved howitzers, mortars and attack helicopters, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. It took place on islands off the west coast of the Korean peninsula where tensions have flared in the past.

Seoul notified the North on Sunday of the drill, a regular live-fire exercise that lasts an hour. About 1,000 island residents were moved to safe areas during the drill, Yonhap reported, citing military officials.

"This is a very dangerous play with fire to ignite a war against the North as it is a clear declaration of war against it," Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday, citing a bulletin from the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

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In late 2010, North Korea responded to a South Korean military exercise in the same area by firing artillery at Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

"If the puppet warmongers preempt reckless firing despite our warning, they will not escape punishment thousands-fold severer" than the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, the bulletin said. It identified "the puppet warmongers" as being South Korea and the United States, which has tens of thousands of troops in South Korea.

The death in December of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the subsequent anointment of his son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, has created uncertainty about the future direction of the secretive regime in Pyongyang.

Further tensions over military maneuvers on the Korean peninsula are expected in the coming weeks. There are two joint exercises planned involving thousands of U.S. and South Korean forces scheduled between February and April.

CNN's Paula Hancocks and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.

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