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S. Korea steps up defense on northwestern islands

South Korea has beefed up its forces on a group of northwestern islands along the tensely guarded maritime border with North Korea to counter provocations from its archrival, military officials said Wednesday.

Following the North's shelling of a front-line island in 2010, Seoul has increased forces and firepower near the area to enhance strike capabilities, but some of the weapons systems were not deployed last year as planned.

With the third anniversary of the Yeonpyeong attack three days away, military officials said that the deployment of advanced weapons has been nearly completed to counter provocations by North Korea, which has recently deployed longer-range artillery to its front-line troops.

Among the new weapons are multiple rocket launchers, Artillery Hunting Radar, Cobra attack helicopters and K-10 ammunition resupply vehicles, they said.

In May, Israeli precision-guided missiles capable of striking North Korean coastal artillery were deployed to Yeonpyeong, which lies just 11 kilometers from North Korean shores. The satellite-guided Spike missile has a range of about 20km and weighs 70 kilograms.

The military more than doubled K-9 self-propelled howitzers, which fired back against North Korea's shelling three years ago. It also plans to introduce surveillance blimps as early as next year to monitor the communist state near the border.

The move comes as Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Choi Yun-hee visited units at the border islands earlier this month and warned that the possibility of a North Korean provocation near the West Sea is higher than ever.

Early this year, Pyongyang set up 76.2-millimeter coastal guns, each with a range of 12km, on the coast northwest of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong. The North has also forward-deployed 122-mm multiple rocket launchers, which have a 20-㎞ range, on land, according to military officials. (Yonhap News)

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