Seoul conducts massive military drill as North Korea condemns U.S. bombers
SEOUL, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- South Korea conducted a massive artillery drill near the demilitarized zone in a bid to warn the North against any future provocations as Pyongyang slammed the United States for deploying stealth bombers to Guam.
The South Korean exercises were held Thursday, a day prior to the one-year anniversary of North Korean shelling that took place after Kim Jong Un declared a "quasi-state of war" last August, Yonhap reported.
South Korea deployed 300 pieces of artillery from 49 artillery battalions. K-9, K-55 self-propelled howitzers participated in the exercises, according to Seoul's defense ministry.
The shelling took place last August after tensions escalated in the wake of land mine explosions that injured two South Korean border guards.
Pyongyang had denied responsibility for the incident but the two sides agreed to end tensions after North Korea had agreed to express "regret" over the explosions and Seoul agreed to suspend loudspeaker broadcasts across the DMZ.
On Thursday, South Korean Lt. Col. Lee Bang-hyung in charge of the White Tiger artillery battalion said, "If provoked again, we will strike so hard that the North can never recover."
North Korea has continued to issue statements condemning the United States and South Korea, and on Wednesday threatened U.S. military bases in the Pacific with "ruin," according to Yonhap.
"The introduction of the nuclear strategic bombers to Guam by the U.S. ... proves that the U.S. plan for a pre-emptive nuclear strike at [North Korea] has entered a reckless phase of implementation," North Korea said in a statement issued on KCNA.
In early August, the United States had moved B-1B and B-2 stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
The deployment came less than a week after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles. One took Japan by surprise when it landed in Tokyo's exclusive economic zone.
Since then Japan has ordered its Self-Defense Forces to intercept and destroy incoming flying objects.