(LEAD) S. Korea keeping close tabs on N. Korea during Hoguk drills
(ATTN: ADDS comments from unification ministry in last 3 paras)
SEOUL, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military is keeping close tabs on North Korea's movements and maintaining an emergency response posture amid concerns of additional provocations during an ongoing defense exercise in the South, an official here said Monday.
The annual Hoguk drills kicked off earlier in the day after a series of provocations by the North in recent weeks, including the firing of a short-range ballistic missile Friday.
"Comprehensively assessing the recent situations, we are closely tracking and monitoring (the North's) related movements and maintaining a firm readiness posture," said Col. Kim Jun-rak, spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), at a regular briefing. "The exercise will be carried out in a substantive way with a focus on maintaining the preparedness and enhancing joint operational capabilities."
This year's training, set to run until Oct. 28, is aimed mainly at improving the military's capabilities to carry out peacetime and wartime missions by simulating various threats from the North, including those involving its nuclear arms and missiles, according to the JCS.
The unification ministry also said it is keeping close tabs on Pyongyang amid China's ongoing Communist Party congress. There is speculation that the North may slow down the pace of its provocations during the weeklong event.
"In close coordination with the relevant authorities, we are keeping a close watch on North Korea's activities and thoroughly examining the situation while preparing for all possibilities," Cho Joong-hoon, spokesperson at the ministry, told a regular press briefing.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service, earlier said the North may carry out its seventh nuclear test between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7, after the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and before the U.S. midterm elections.
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