SEOUL, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Undeterred by the latest threat from its northern neighbor, Seoul is poised to hold five-day naval drills later this week in tense waters west of the divided Korean peninsula, where its warship Cheonan sank in late March.
A U.S. Marine Corps C-130 Hercules aircraft leads a formation of F/A-18C Hornet
As part of a response to the tragic sinking believed to be masterminded by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the drills, starting Aug. 5, are a show of force meant to improve Seoul's defense posture and deter Pyongyang's further provocations, officials here said.
"The exercises are of defensive nature and will be carried out in South Korean waters. Finding faults with it itself would constitute a kind of provocation," Rear Adm. Kim Kyung-sik of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a press briefing.
"We will keep close taps on any movement of the enemy during the drills, and will not tolerate any provocation," Kim said, when asked what the South Korean military would do if a provocation arises in the middle of the five-day exercises.
South Korea's army, navy and air force will join the drills, which will involve some 20 vessels, 50 aircrafts and 4,500 troops and coast guard officials, the JCS official said. The South Korean military will be guarding against attempts of submarine infiltration and provocation near a disputed sea border, he said.
The barbed remarks were aimed the DPRK, the suspected culprit of the torpedo attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan, as it warned on Tuesday of a "powerful physical retaliation" against the drills.
Pyongyang called the planned maneuvers an "open military attack " to defend the de facto maritime border off the west coast, which it refuses to acknowledge. Disputes surrounding the border, fixed unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command after the 1950- 1953 Korean War, have culminated in two fatal naval skirmishes in the past decade.