Navy drill marks deadly maritime clashes with North

SEOUL-- South Korea's Navy staged a far-reaching maritime exercise Friday in commemoration of three major inter-Korean naval clashes since 2002.

The second annual training exercise marking West Sea Defense Day, which was held in all waters around the nation, involved major naval weaponry including destroyer submarines, frigates, corvettes and choppers.

The training is held in memory of three incidents near the western Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border between the two Koreas.

They are North Korea's torpedo attack on the corvette Cheonan in March 2010 which killed its 46 sailors, the North's artillery attack on the South's Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 which left two soldiers and two civilians dead, and a naval skirmish called the 2nd Battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002 which killed six sailors.

The Navy held a West Sea Defense Day ceremony later in the day as part of the Navy's week to stress the importance of national security.

"We never forget the spirit of sacrifice of 55 comrades who lost their lives to defend the West Sea. We stand ready to retaliate North Korea's provocation," Rear Adm. Kim Myung-soo said in a statement.

"If North Korea provokes again, we will harshly avenge it based on preparations so far. The area of the attack will become their grave."

The Navy, meanwhile, announced that it is continuing to upgrade combat equipment, with old front-line warships being replaced by new, larger ones such as the 2,500-ton Incheon-class FFG Batch-I and 2,800-ton Daegu-class FFG Batch-II.

The guided-missile frigates have high-quality sonar devices to detect the enemy's submarines more effectively.

There are six Incheon-class ships already in operation, and four other advanced warships will be commissioned in April, it added.

The Daegu-class vessel is scheduled to be put into operation in the latter half of 2018.

The Navy said it is also deploying cutting-edge helicopters and submarines as part of efforts to enhance its firepower.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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