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Koreas

South Korea to counter-attack North, says new military directive

File photo/Reuters

Under a new military directive, South Korean troops have been ordered to launch a powerful counter-attack if North Korea fires shells into its waters. Previous guidelines required troops to issue three warnings before opening fire.

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South Korea’s Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young told a parliamentary defence committee Tuesday that the order is in line with a new combat policy to guard the sea border.

This comes after the North fired an artillery barrage into disputed waters in the Yellow Sea on 9 August. South Korea did not fire back.

The South has been carrying out military exercises alone and with the US as a show of force. Relations between the neighbours have been strained since Seoul accused North Korea of sinking a South Korean warship in March, a claim the North denies.

South Korea has been practicing a new war plan that would involve occupying and stabilising the North in case of aggression, the local Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reports.

The current Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise with the US involves 56,000 South Korean and 30,000 US troops and a number of American soldiers based in the US linked up by computer.

The South’s defence ministry also reported to parliament Tuesday that a large number of North Korean soldiers along with vehicles and artillery have been deployed near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, since July.

This appears to be related to a communist party meeting next month, in which leader Kim Jong-Il might appoint his successor, and the party’s 65th anniversary celebrations on 10 October.

"The massive deployment of troops could be designed to show their military power at home and abroad, or for security," a ministry spokesman told the AFP agency.

Meanwhile, former US president Jimmy Carter is to visit North Korea in order to secure the release of an American serving eight years of hard labour there, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

It reported that the Nobel Peace Prize winner is planning to leave “within days”, and will be travelling as a private citizen to advocate for Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a former English teacher in South Korea, who was arrested in January and convicted of illegally crossing the country's border with China.

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