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South Korea Conducts Additional Military Drills

South Korean marines patrol at the South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea, 22 Dec 2010

South Korea is carrying out more military exercises on land and sea this week. While officials call the training routine it could raise already high tensions with North Korea.

South Korea's navy Wednesday began a three-day exercise in waters off the country's east coast, about 100 kilometers south of the maritime border.

The chief military research fellow at South Korea's Institute for Defense Analyses, Park Chang-kwon, says the drill demonstrates a readiness posture to the South Korean public, as well to North Korea's military leadership.

Park says unlike the Yellow Sea, the eastern waters are not in dispute so the exercise should not give Pyongyang any cause to retaliate, but the North can be unpredictable. He notes this drill is meant to better prepare South Korea's navy against submarine intrusions.

The army and air force are to stage their largest-ever wintertime joint live-fire exercise Thursday, 20 kilometers from the North Korean border.

Pyongyang considered a smaller live-fire drill on a western coastal island Monday a provocation but did not make good on its threats to retaliate.

Hours after routine South Korean artillery training on Yeonpyeong island a month ago, the North Koreans bombarded the Yellow Sea island, killing four people.

Pyongyang does not recognize the maritime border near the island and claims the surrounding waters.

South Korea latest shows of force come in response to last month's attack.

A spokesman for the U.S. Forces in South Korea says American troops will not participate in Thursday's land exercise.

South Korea's Unification Ministry says Pyongyang is engaging in a propaganda campaign to blame Seoul for provoking the shelling of Yeonpyeong.

Spokesman Lee Jong-joo says the campaign targets dozens of South Korean companies that do business with the North, as well as civic and religious groups.

Lee says the companies and organizations over the past two weeks have received a large number of fax messages. The faxes justify the attack on the island in response to the military exercise and they urge the recipients to campaign against the South Korean government.