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S Korea's night-time naval drills to detect N Korean submarines

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SEOUL (AFP): South Korea's navy has staged intensive night-time exercises aimed at detecting North Korean submarines as a key part of its five-day drill scheduled to end Monday, military officials said.

The country's largest-ever anti-submarine exercise is going ahead in the Yellow Sea in response to an alleged North Korean attack on a South Korean warship which killed 46 sailors.

The North vehemently denies carrying out the attack in March and has threatened retaliation for the naval drill, which involves 4,500 troops, 29 ships and 50 fighter jets.

The exercise is one of a series planned in coming months, some of them with South Korea's ally the United States in a show of force against the North.

The current drill is focused on improving military capabilities to detect North Korean submarines and torpedoes, after the navy came in for strong criticism for failing to detect the alleged night attack on March 26.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the night training has been held for six to seven hours starting around 8 pm (1200 GMT), with all ships equipped with sonar taking part.

"For now, everything is proceeding in line with our drill plan," a JCS spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

A team of international investigators said they found overwhelming evidence that a North Korean submarine fired a heavy torpedo to break the corvette in two near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

The communist North says the allegations are part of a smear campaign by the South and the United States.

"The anti-submarine exercise... is a prelude to a war of aggression against the North," the newspaper of its ruling communist party, Rodong Sinmun, said yesterday.

The North's military has threatened "the most powerful" retaliation if the South triggers a conflict during the current exercise. "Our warning is not empty talk," the paper said without elaborating.

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S Korea  Navy  exercise  N Korea  
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