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S Korea, Australia to hold first-ever naval drill

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A file photo.

SEOUL (BNS): A first-ever joint military drill between the South Korean and Australian navies will begin next week off the southern coast of South Korea.

The naval drill, involving submarines, warships and aircraft, will kick off on Monday off the northeastern coast of Jeju Island, the official South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Thursday.

The two-day exercise, codenamed 'Haedori-Wallaby', will be focused on sharpening the two navies' combined abilities in detecting and tracking enemy submarines and torpedoes, a South Korean Navy official was quoted as saying.

About 10 warships and submarines from both sides, including South Korea's first Aegis-equipped destroyer Sejong the Great, and Australia's Anzac-class guided-missile frigate, the Ballarat, will take part in the maritime drill, the report said.

South Korean Lynx helicopters and P3-C anti-submarine surveillance aircraft will also be mobilised, the Navy officials said.

This will be the first joint naval exercise between South Korea and Australia since their defence chiefs agreed last December to hold regular combined naval drills, the S Korean Navy said.

South Korea has been regularly conducting joint military drills with the US despite North Korea's warning that such exercises would undermine the peace in the region.

Ties between the two Koreas remain tense since March 2010 when the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships near the disputed Yellow Sea border. While denying the charge, North Korea shelled a South Korean border island in November that year, killing four.

North Korea's attempt to launch a long-range rocket in April this year which ended in failure has further deteriorated relations between the two neighbours. South Korea had claimed the rocket launch as a disguised missile test by the DPRK.

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