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S Korea says will continue live-fire drill off coast next week

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SEOUL (AFP): South Korea will continue to stage live-fire military drills off all coasts of the Korean peninsula following North Korea's deadly attack on one of its islands last month, an official said Sunday.

But a drill to be staged at 27 venues from December 13 to 19 will not take place near the contested Yellow Sea border with the North, the spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"This week's drill will start on Monday as scheduled... we have no plan to conduct it at the frontier islands," the spokesman told AFP, referring to the South's five islands near the tense maritime border with the North.

One of the islands, Yeonpyeong, was the scene of a deadly shelling attack on November 23 that killed four South Koreans, including two civilians, and sparked a regional crisis.

Since the bombardment, the first of a civilian area since the 1950-53 Korean War, Seoul has staged a flurry of military exercises, including a major joint naval drill with the US, in a show of force against Pyongyang.

The South had planned a drill at one of the frontline islands during a live-fire exercise last week but it was cancelled due to bad weather, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The North threatened to deal "merciless retaliatory blows" at the military build-up in the South, calling it "a declaration of an all-out war."

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