S. Korean president defends persistent drills

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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Monday defended Seoul's live-fire drills in the wake of exchange of artillery fire between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) near the disputed western maritime border last month which resulted in the death of four South Korean citizens.

"We have now been awakened to the realization that war can be prevented and peace assured only when such provocations are met with a strong response," Lee said in his biweekly radio address. " Fear of war is never helpful in preventing war."

The president called for security readiness that would allow South Korean forces to "respond relentlessly when they come under attack."

The harsh rhetoric came amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula following DPRK's deadly shelling of Yonphyong island on Nov. 23 which Pyongyang said was a retaliation for the aggression of its territorial waters, and subsequent military drills by Seoul.

The DPRK said these drills, including the Dec. 20 firing exercise from Yonphyong island near the disputed sea border known as the "Northern Limit Line" drawn by Seoul but never acknowledged by Pyongyang, were provocative but not worth military reaction.

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