South Korea, Japan and the US yesterday began a joint naval exercise involving destroyers, supply ships and helicopters in a move denounced by North Korea as a “reckless provocation.”
Seoul’s defense ministry said the two-day drill would practice humanitarian operations such as search and rescue missions and maritime interceptions. It said no live-fire exercises were planned.
Pyongyang yesterday said the three-nation exercise threatens to bring a “new cloud of war” to Northeast Asia.
“The North’s people and military are intensely watching the trilateral military drill,” ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said, urging the three allies to stop “reckless provocation.
A South Korean defense ministry spokesman declined to say how many personnel were involved in the exercise in international waters south of South Korea’s Jeju Island, but said such drills had been held since 2008.
The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington will join the exercise today before taking part in a separate drill with South Korea in the Yellow Sea from tomorrow to Monday. On land, South Korean and US forces are to hold their biggest joint live-fire exercise today. The aim is to showcase their “watertight defense posture and war-fighting capabilities,” Seoul’s defense ministry said earlier in the week.
It said 2,000 troops, F-15K and KF-16 jet fighters and light-attack planes would be among weaponry deployed.
Four US Apache attack helicopters as well as tanks and rocket launchers will fire thousands of rounds during the drill at Pocheon near the border with the North. The drill is timed to mark the 62nd anniversary on Monday of the start of the Korean War, which sealed the peninsula’s division.
The North has taken a hostile tone with the South since new leader Kim Jong-un took over in December last year.
South Korean activists yesterday announced a plan to launch 1 million cross-border leaflets denouncing the North’s ruling family.
They said the leaflets, slung under giant gas-filled balloons, would be floated across the border in five launches starting on Sunday.
“While the North is busy idolising Kim Jong-un with fabrication and hypocrisy, we will send letters unveiling the truth about Kim,” the Fighters for Free North Korea said in a statement.
They did not say where the launches would take place, for security reasons.
BROWNOUT DRILL HELD
Meanwhile, sirens rang out across South Korea and some traffic lights were switched off yesterday as the country carried out an unprecedented drill aimed at averting summer power cuts.
The 20-minute exercise was intended to encourage consumers to switch off appliances if reserves run dangerously low, and to simulate responses if phased blackouts become inevitable, the ministry of knowledge economy said.
Reserves are feared to fall to dangerously low levels next month and August when air conditioners will run at full blast, a situation that could spark rolling blackouts across the country.
At four subway stations in Seoul, firemen simulated operations to rescue passengers trapped in elevators. Some large hospitals evacuated patients from emergency rooms. Government buildings cut off mains power and switched on generators.
People were urged voluntarily to switch off air conditioners, fans and other appliances during the drill.