WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Pentagon Chief Panetta (L) and top US General Dempsey are seen in this photo. AFP photo
South Korea’s navy is to build an advance base on a frontline island to bolster defenses near the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea, officials said yesterday.
The navy has been given local government approval to reclaim 23,489 square meters at Baengnyeong Island to build the base, said an official at Incheon city, west of Seoul, which oversees the islands. The defense ministry said the navy would build a dock for small warships but declined to give details.
Yonhap news agency said the new base would include barracks and a training ground and accommodate about 100 troops. It would be completed by the end of 2014 at a cost of 36.6 million.
Baengnyeong is one of five South Korean islands near the boundary drawn by United Nations forces after the 1950-53 war. Pyongyang refuses to accept the line and insists it should be moved southwards.
The border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In November 2010 the North shelled one of the five islands, Yeonpyeong, and killed four South Koreans including two civilians. The South has since strengthened manpower and weaponry on the islands to forestall any fresh attack. North Korea has reportedly completed a base for troop-carrying hovercraft at Koampo, 50 kilometers north of Baengnyeong.