US, S Korea plan drill near disputed sea border

South Korean and US marines are planning their first joint exercise on a frontline island.

Seoul: South Korean and US marines are planning their first joint exercise on a frontline island, officials said on Thursday, in an apparent show of force to North Korea following deadly border incidents.

"The two allies are discussing details of such a joint marine exercise," a defence ministry spokesman told a news agency.

Yonhap news agency said the drill was likely to take place in July on Baengnyeong island in the Yellow Sea, before annual US-South Korea military drills dubbed "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" get under way elsewhere in August.

Baengnyeong island is near where North Korea allegedly torpedoed one of South Korea`s warships in March last year, killing 46 sailors.

Last November, the North shelled another of the South`s five frontline islands near the disputed sea border.

Tensions have been high since the South accused the North of sinking the warship. Pyongyang denied the charge but went on to shell Yeonpyeong island last November, killing four people including civilians.

The North said the South provoked the island attack by staging a live-fire drill that dropped shells into waters claimed by Pyongyang.

But this year it has called for dialogue. Leader Kim Jong-Il, in a message delivered through visiting former US president Jimmy Carter, reportedly offered to hold unconditional summit talks with the South`s President Lee Myung-Bak.

Lee, who is on a European tour, said in Berlin this week that he could invite Kim to a multinational nuclear summit in Seoul next March.

He said the North as a precondition should announce willingness to give up its nuclear weapons, and also called on it to take responsibility for last year`s deadly incidents.

Pyongyang late Wednesday rejected Lee`s proposal as "provocative" and "reckless", calling him a traitor.

Its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said Pyongyang must reconsider its stance to pursue dialogue since it had become clear that Lee is "set to stand in confrontation to the last".

"It is quite self-evident that nothing can be expected from a dialogue with such a man keen on confrontation with fellow countrymen, blinded by a foolish dream," it said.

Bureau Report