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N. Korea steps up Air Force training near sea border with S. Korea: source

All Headlines 09:51 December 12, 2009

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has stepped up Air Force training near its volatile sea border with South Korea as the country's armed forces undergo their months-long winter exercises, a defense source here said Saturday.

North Korea conducts massive exercises for its 1.2 million troops from November through March each year, according to South Korean military officials.

A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea's Air Force is ramping up its drills north of the western Northern Limit Line (NLL) that serves as a de facto sea border with South Korea.

Three naval skirmishes took place near the line in the past decade, as North Korea refuses to honor the boundary drawn by a U.S. general in 1953, when the three-year Korean War ended in a truce.

"North Korean fighter jets have been increasing the number of landing, take-off and long-range flight drills there since the winter exercises kicked off," the source said.

On Wednesday, a North Korean fighter jet breached a South Korean-set Tactical Action Line (TAL), prompting the South Korean Air Force to scramble to send six KF-16 fighters near the NLL, the source said.

The TAL, drawn dozens of kilometers north of the NLL, is only a several-minute flight from the South Korean capital, Seoul.

"This type of situation occurs routinely," the source said, adding the North Korean Air Force has breached the TAL over 1,000 times since mid-January.


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