A North Korean flag has been used for target practice by South Korean and American troops in the largest live-fire exercise to be conducted since the Korean War.
The one-day drills at Poncheon near the North Korean border involved 2000 troops along with jet fighters, tanks and Apache attack helicopters.
They are intended to demonstrate US and South Korean combat readiness, sending a clear warning to North Korea against signs of aggression.
The drills come before the 62nd anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 war on Monday. While rockets did not actually hit the flag, involving it in military drills has been seen as a provocation by Pyongyang.
A North Korean government official said the drills threatened to bring "a new cloud of war to the region". The Korean Central News Agency has warned that even a small clash could lead to a "full-scale regional nuclear war".
However, Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean professor at Seoul's Dongguk University has said that even a direct hit on the flag would probably only result in escalated North Korean threats because Pyongyang's struggling economy prevents it from staging any attack.
Tension has been rising in the region since a North Korean rocket launch in April.
Despite the North Korean government claiming that it was an attempt to send a satellite into orbit, the UN Security condemned the launch, believing it to be a test on banned long-range missile technology.
In recent months, North Korea has ramped up harsh rhetoric against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who ended Seoul's no-strings-attached aid to Pyongyang after he took office in 2008.
Fighter jet exercises near the border have also increased significantly. South Korean Navy Brigadier General Park Seong-Bae warned against North Korean aggression stating: "We will immediately retaliate against any attacks from North Korea and finish the enemy off on the spot."----
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