South Korea to Resume Military Drills in Buffer Zones After North Korea’s Artillery Firing

Seoul, South Korea - South Korea's military is set to recommence exercises in buffer zones established by a 2018 inter-Korean military accord. This decision follows recent actions by North Korea that have rendered the agreement effectively invalid.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Officials on Tuesday stated that the resumption of activities, including artillery firings and drills near the sea and land border, is a response to North Korea's artillery firing which has nullified the zones where such activities were previously banned. The announcement came after the South's military identified North Korea's shellings as a breach of the buffer zones designated in the agreement.

The escalation of tensions was marked by North Korea firing hundreds of artillery shells into the maritime buffer zone near the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea, from Friday to Sunday. Defense ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyou, during a briefing on Tuesday, mentioned that the nullification of the agreement would enable South Korean troops to maintain better readiness, as the accord had previously restricted drills near the border.

Jeon highlighted the improved conditions for exercises by units following these developments. However, he noted that discussions with other government branches would be required to determine whether the 2018 agreement should be completely scrapped.

In response to the nullification, the Army plans to restart exercises that had been halted under the 2018 accord. These include live-fire artillery drills and regiment-level field maneuvers within five kilometers of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. Similarly, the Navy intends to conduct live-fire and maneuver drills in the maritime buffer zone established by the agreement.

The Marine Corps is also preparing to resume regular live-fire artillery exercises with K9 self-propelled howitzers on the northwestern border islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong. These drills had been conducted on Friday for the first time since August 2017, in response to North Korea's artillery firing that day.

This move comes after North Korea vowed last November to restore all military measures halted under the 2018 pact. The North's declaration was in reaction to South Korea partially suspending the deal and resuming surveillance near the border, following North Korea's first spy satellite launch earlier in November.

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