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North Korea Prepares Rare Army, Navy and Air Drill

Jul. 26, 2011 - 03:45AM   |  
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SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea is preparing a rare military exercise involving its army, navy and air force that could be launched this week in the tense Yellow Sea, reports in South Korea said July 26.

A government source quoted by the South's Yonhap news agency said the North had assembled about 20 navy vessels including landing craft off the western port of Nampo and deployed MiG-21 fighters to Onchon airbase in the same area.

The Korea JoongAng Daily, also citing a government source, carried a similar report.

"It depends on the weather, but we believe they're setting up for a landing exercise sometime after Wednesday," Yonhap's source was quoted as saying.

July 27 is the 58th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. The two countries are still technically at war, as no formal peace treaty was signed.

A defense ministry spokesman said he had no information on the reports, which came just four days after a rare meeting between nuclear envoys from the two Koreas raised hopes of easing tensions.

In another preparation for the possible resumption of nuclear disarmament talks, a senior North Korean official will travel to New York this week for talks.

"Military exercises in summer are normal in North Korea, but it's rather unusual for it to carry out a joint military drill around the armistice anniversary," the source said.

The source said the exercise might be a reaction to the South's launch of a new military command last month to bolster island defenses near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

The North shelled one of the islands last November and killed four people.

The North's leader Kim Jong-Il and his son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-Un have visited the Navy Command in Pyongyang, the country's official news agency said late July 25.

It was the first time a visit by Kim to the Navy Command has been reported since May 2002.

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