Military set to resume drills halted under 2018 inter-Korean accord buffer zones

Military set to resume drills halted under 2018 inter-Korean accord buffer zones
# 09 January 2024 13:15 (UTC +04:00)

South Korea's military is expected to resume exercises in buffer zones set under a 2018 inter-Korean military accord as they have become effectively invalid after North Korea's recent artillery firing, officials said Tuesday, APA reports citing Yonhap News Agency.

On Monday, the South's military said it will resume artillery firings and drills near the sea and land border, noting Pyongyang's recent shellings nullified the zones where live-fire and large-scale drills are banned.

Tension has escalated after North Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells from its west coast into the maritime buffer zone near the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea, between Friday and Sunday.

Defense ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyou told a briefing Tuesday that the nullification will pave the way for South Korean troops to maintain better readiness, noting the agreement had restricted drills near the border.

"These issues are expected to be resolved, and I believe that there will be better conditions for exercises by units," he said.

Jeon, however, noted the ministry would have to hold talks with other government branches on whether to completely scrap the 2018 agreement.

In light of the nullification, the Army plans to resume exercises halted under the 2018 accord, such as live-fire artillery drills and regiment-level field maneuvers within five kilometers of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

The Navy is also set to conduct live-fire and maneuver drills that had been halted in the maritime buffer zone created by the 2018 agreement.

The Marine Corps will also resume regular live-fire artillery exercises with K9 self-propelled howitzers on the northwestern border islands of Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong.

Marines on the two islands staged such drills Friday for the first time since August 2017 in response to the North's artillery firing earlier that day.

Last November, North Korea vowed to restore all military measures halted under the 2018 pact after South Korea partially suspended the deal and resumed surveillance near the border in protest of the North's first spy satellite launch earlier that month.