South Korean and U.S. marines plan to hold a joint maneuver this year on islands near the West Sea border with North Korea as the allies expand combined exercises to deter provocations from the North, a military official here said Tuesday.
The planned drill would be the first of its kind involving marines from the two nations on the West Sea islands, one of which was targeted by a deadly North Korean bombardment last November.
“A South Korean-U.S. Marine Corps joint drill is planned for West Sea islands this year,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. “The planned drill would take place near the islands of Baengnyeong or Yeonpyeong.”
The allies are working on the details for the exercise, including a specific date, the official said.
“The planned drill is part of the allies’ efforts to improve combined defense readiness and curb North Korean provocations,” the official said.
In addition, marines from the two nations plan to stage a joint landing drill off eastern and western coasts of the Korean Peninsula this year, according to the official.
Two marines and two civilians were killed in the North’s Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. The bombardment came eight months after a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship and killed 46 sailors.
Military officials have warned that North Korea could launch more military attacks against the South this year.
Late this month, South Korea and the U.S. are scheduled to launch their first regularly scheduled military drills since the North’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong.
The annual Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises, which start next Monday, will involve some 12,500 U.S. troops and more than 200,000 South Korean troops, including reservists.
Key Resolve, computer-based simulation drills, runs through March 10, while Foal Eagle, field training exercises, will continue through April 30.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.