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South Korea to hold live-fire naval drills

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SEOUL (AFP): South Korea will stage naval firing drills at 23 venues from Monday but will exclude areas near the disputed sea border with North Korea, the military said.

The military plans to stage live-fire drills of the coast around the Korean peninsula from December 27 to 31, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Sunday.

But the firing exercise will not be held near the tense maritime border with the North on the Yellow Sea, according to coordinates given by the government.

"This is part of a regular practice involving army, naval and air forces... and the state-run Agency for Defence Development will also conduct ammunition tests off the west coast," the JCS spokesman told AFP.

Seoul on December 20 staged a live-fire artillery exercise on Yeonpyeong Island, a border island that was shelled by the North in an attack that killed four South Koreans, including two civilians.

The first live-fire drill at the embattled island since the November 23 bombardment drew a flurry of angry remarks from Pyongyang, which however did not retaliate.

Cross-border tension has been acute since last month's shelling, the first attack on a civilian area since the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Pyongyang said it was retaliating for a South Korean firing drill that dropped shells into waters that it claims are North Korean territory.

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S Korea  Navt  drills  
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