By Kim Eun-jung | YonhapNews
North Korea has placed about 50 attack helicopters at air bases near the western sea border in response to South Korea’s Air Force placement in the Yellow Sea, South Korean government sources said Tuesday.
North Korea’s military has deployed the helicopters at two air bases near the South’s Baengnyeong Island, located just south of the western maritime border, since May to prepare for ground attacks and high mobility drills, a senior military official said.
The North’s forward deployed helicopters number about 50, including the Mi-2 helicopters, which were produced in North Korea in the 1980s, and Russian-made models.
The official analyzed Pyongyang deployed the attack helicopters on the frontline in response to South Korea’s placement of assault helicopters and multiple launch rocket system in the northwestern islands.
“We are closely watching (the North Korean military) as it could relocate (the helicopters) after troops at the rear ends complete their summer training,” the official said asking for anonymity as he is not allowed to talk about military information to the media.
Seoul and Washington have strengthened their joint intelligence gathering on the reclusive communist regime, following a series of top-level reshuffles in the North’s military, according to military sources.
Tensions further rose as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was granted the title of marshal, after the shake-up at the highest level of the North’s 1.2 million-strong armed forces, one of the world’s largest.
The Koreas remain technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.