S Korean troops stage major drill near tense border

The drill follows an anti-submarine exercise by the South`s Navy last week.

Seoul: Thousands of South Korean troops, backed by dozens of attack helicopters, staged an exercise on Monday to thwart a simulated attack by North Korea near their tense border, military officials said.

It was the biggest drill since cross-border tensions flared over the sinking of a South Korean warship on March 26 and follows an anti-submarine exercise by the South`s Navy last week.

"One Army corps was involved in today`s exercise," a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The drill was held along a river in the northeastern county of Hwacheon just south of the border with North Korea, he said.

The show of military strength included about 50 tanks and armoured vehicles, which crossed a floating bridge backed by dozens of attack helicopters and self-propelled guns, military officials said.

The drill was aimed at testing the South`s response to either limited conflict or an all-out war with North Korea, Yonhap news agency said.

Tensions have risen sharply since a multinational investigation concluded on May 20 that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo to break the South Korean corvette in two with the loss of 46 lives.

South Korea announced a series of reprisals including a trade cut-off. It plans, with US and Japanese support, to ask the UN Security Council to sanction -- or at least to censure -- the North.

Numerous countries have condemned the North for the sinking, one of the worst military attacks on the South since the 1950-53 war.

The hardline state furiously denies involvement and has responded to the reprisals with threats of war, sending regional tensions sharply higher.


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