Despite North Korean threats to retaliate against South Korea's war games, Seoul began naval drills Thursday to strengthen its capacity to counter North Korean provocations.
The drills, which follow joint military exercises with the US last month off the east coast, are set to run through Monday and will include exercises in areas near the disputed western sea border with North Korea. They involve about 4,500 South Korean troops, more than 20 ships and submarines, and about 50 aircraft, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Both sets of maneuvers came in response to the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on North Korea. Forty-six South Korean sailors were killed. The US and South Korea said the drills were to warn the North that further provocations will not be tolerated.
A five-nation team of investigators concluded in May that a North Korean torpedo sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan warship in late March near the Koreas' western maritime border.
North Korea, which denies any involvement in the sinking, warned Tuesday it will "counter the reckless naval firing projected by the group of traitors with strong physical retaliation."