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S Korea deploys more anti-submarine aircraft on sea border: report

SEOUL (AFP): South Korea has deployed five extra anti-submarine patrol aircraft to guard against a potential attack by North Korea, a report said Tuesday, amid high tension on the disputed sea border.

The military on Saturday deployed five P-3CK surveillance aircraft in addition to 11 anti-submarine planes already in operation to patrol the sea off the west and east coasts, JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.

The move is “aimed to improve the ability to detect submarines following a North Korean submarine's attack on the Cheonan warship,” the paper quoted a military official as saying.

Seoul, citing a multinational investigation, blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing its Cheonan warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors, a charge the North has vehemently denied.

“With the additional deployment of maritime surveillance aircraft, we are able to intensively monitor movements of the North's submarines in the East Sea and Yellow Sea,” the official was quoted as saying.

The aircraft, nicknamed “submarine killer” due to its ability to detect and attack submarines, have taken part in major drills including a joint naval exercise with the United States last July, the paper said.

A navy spokesman confirmed the report to AFP but refused to give details.

Cross-border military tension has soared after Pyongyang's shelling of the border island of Yeonpyeong on the Yellow Sea in late November, which killed four South Koreans including two civilians.

South Korea has staged a flurry of military exercises, including one jointly with the US, in a show of force against its communist neighbour, which did not follow through with threats of a new and deadlier attack.

Despite the tensions, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak Monday reached out to North Korea, saying Seoul was open to talks and offering closer economic ties.

In his New Year policy address, just days after Pyongyang called for improved relations in 2011, Lee also urged the North to abandon its “military adventurism.”

The North, in a joint New Year editorial of state media on Saturday, said tensions “should be defused as early as possible,” stressing dialogue and cooperation “should be promoted proactively.”


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