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U.S. joins drill in tense inter-Korean border region

All Headlines 15:39 October 04, 2016

SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. has sent marines to the tense western sea border region facing North Korea in an ongoing drill aimed at countering Pyongyang's relentless provocations.

In the joint exercise that ends on Wednesday, some 200 U.S. marines and 120 of their South Korean counterparts are taking part in a bilateral training exercise that aims to strengthen the allies' military capabilities and interoperability, South Korea's Marine Corps said in a statement.

"The two countries' troops have conducted the joint exercise to be more prepared, mentally and physically, to cope with unexpected nuclear and missile threats from North Korea," the statement said.

In this photo taken on Oct. 4, 2016, South Korean and U.S. marine soldiers carry out a joint exercise in the country's northernmost Baengnyeong Island to counter North Korea's provocations. (Yonhap)

The drill, named Korea Maritime Exercise Program (KMEP), has been held since 2012, two years after North Korea sank a South Korean warship that resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors.

The allied militaries have conducted 12 to 19 drills a year around the frontline islands, including the country's northernmost Baengnyeong Island and Yeongpyeong Island, to counter possible provocations from the North since 2010.

In addition to its torpedo attack on the Cheonan corvette in early 2010, Pyongyang mounted an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island that killed four South Koreans, including two civilians in November of the same year.

North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test last month despite international sanctions imposed on the communist regime following its fourth detonation in January.

Moreover, the North has launched a series of ballistic missiles as it moves forward with its stated goal of developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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