South Korean marines conduct a live-fire drill using K-9 Thunder howitzers from Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, June 26, 2024.

South Korean marines conduct a live-fire drill using K-9 Thunder howitzers from Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, June 26, 2024. (South Korea Marine Corps)

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korea’s army held live-fire artillery practice near the border with North Korea for the first time in six years, and the first such move since suspending a ban on live drills in June.

The artillery drill was conducted at an unspecified firing range within three miles of the Military Demarcation Line, the actual border dividing the Korean Peninsula, according to a news release Tuesday from the South Korean army. The border is inside the 2½-mile-wide Demilitarized Zone.

Numerous air and artillery ranges are scattered near the border with North Korea. U.S. and South Korean troops conduct drills throughout the year at the 3,390-acre Rodriguez Live Fire Complex roughly 16 miles south of the border.

Tuesday’s artillery drill focused on South Korea’s “response capabilities and fire preparedness” in the event of North Korean provocations, the release said. The army said it plans to regularly conduct artillery drills around the area for the foreseeable future.

Last month, South Korea formally suspended the military deconfliction agreement with the North that banned live-fire drills along the border.

The Comprehensive Military Agreement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018 imposed several measures to lower tensions on the peninsula, including suspending drills and establishing no-fly zones along the border.

South Korea in November partially suspended a provision in the agreement that banned aircraft flights near the DMZ after the North successfully launched a reconnaissance spy satellite. 

That decision prompted North Korea to scrap the accord entirely and announce through its state-run Korean Central News Agency that it will deploy “more powerful weapons” to the border.

Since then, North Korea has fired over a dozen ballistic missiles over eight separate days of testing. The communist regime last fired a short-range ballistic missile and an unspecified ballistic missile on Monday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

North Korea also sent over 1,000 balloons carrying trash toward the South since May 28 in retaliation against human-rights activists who sent balloons carrying humanitarian aid and propaganda leaflets toward the North.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol lifted the agreement on June 4, citing Pyongyang’s continuing provocations. The suspension will remain “until mutual trust between the South and the North is restored,” the South’s Ministry of National Defense said at the time.

South Korean marines most recently held a live-fire exercise June 26 on Yeonpyeong Island, near the northwestern maritime border with the North, using K-9 Thunder howitzers and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers, the service said in a news release.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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