The Navy is set to complete construction of a new base near the tense Yellow Sea border with North Korea this year in a move expected to significantly upgrade South Korea's capability to cope with North Korean maritime provocations, officials said Friday.
The base on Baengnyeong Island, just south of the sea border known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL), is designed to accommodate advanced patrol boats, such as a 570-ton guarded-missile patrol killer, or PKG, and a 170-ton patrol killer medium vessel, or PKM, a Navy officer said.
It will also include facilities for up to 100 troops, he said.
"The deployment of the PKG in the new base will enable the military to better respond to the North's violation of the NLL and its maritime provocations," he said, requesting anonymity.
The Baengnyeong base is on the southern part of the island, just 10 kilometers away from the sea border, which North Korea has refused to recognize while claiming that the border should be nullified as it was drawn unilaterally by U.N. forces at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The construction of the 42.5 billion won ($41.76 million) base is part of Seoul's ongoing efforts to bolster its naval defense in the tensely-guarded area, particularly in the wake of an inter-Korean naval skirmish near Yeonpyeong Island in 1999. Since then, the South has launched 15 PKGs.
Tensions still run still high in waters near the NLL, a venue for deadly naval skirmishes and armed provocations by the North. In 2010, the North torpedoed the South's warship Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors, and months later it launched a shelling attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island that left four dead, including two civilians.
In 2012, the North completed construction of a naval base right across from the island of Baengnyeong. The North's base is capable of accommodating up to 70 landing craft air-cushion vehicles, or hovercraft.
"To better guard against the North's patrol boats that often crossed the border, the Navy is on alert around the clock," a Navy officer said.
"More efforts are needed to beef up personnel and equipment in the South's Second Navy Fleet," which is in charge of defending the volatile waters, he added. (Yonhap)