South Korea is set to conduct its largest-ever artillery drill near the border with North Korea amid nail-biting tensions in the Korean peninsula. The exercises are set to take place on Friday, 19 August.
The South Korean military said the event will establish its readiness to respond to any provocations from its northern neighbour.
A statement from the South Korean military read: "Some 300 artillery pieces from 49 artillery battalions are planning to take part in the live-fire exercise. The drill that will kick off at 5.04pm will involve the K-9 and K-55 self-propelled artillery pieces," according to Seoul's Yonhap news agency.
The drill marks one year since the demilitarised zone (DMZ) – the world's most heavily-militarised zone – between the two Koreas witnessed heavy shelling. Military forces from both the countries fired artillery shells towards each other on 20 August, 2015. The shelling took place following a land-mine attack last August which injured two South Korean troops.
The two Koreas are still technically at war with each other as the three-year-long conflict between 1950 and 1953 never ended in a peace treaty but only in an armistice.
The South's plans to hold its annual artillery drill have come just ahead of the joint military exercises, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), with the US.
Seoul has also begun talks with South Korean allies on how to punish the North following claims that the reclusive nation has achieved production capability of weapons-grade plutonium. "If North Korea's claims are true, it's a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Discussion with allies on ways to respond has been started," an unidentified South Korean government official was quoted as saying.
Earlier, a spokesperson for North Korea's Atomic Energy Institute told Japan's Kyodo news agency that Pyongyang has resumed its production of weapons-grade plutonium and has no plans to pursue its nuclear ambitions. The Korean peninsula has been volatile in recent months with hectic activity and a fierce war of words.