On their island base in a tense Yellow Sea, black-clad commando squads armed with automatic weapons surge up ladders onto the deck of a training ship, fast-rope down building exteriors and detonate explosives.

The Special Sea Attack Team (SSAT), an elite South Korean Coast Guard unit tasked with countering maritime terrorism, is preparing to respond with tougher policies to North Korean shipping in response to North Korea's missile launches and its second nuclear test in May, The Washington Times reported on Friday.

"We have not got word from above yet," said Inspector Joung Ku-so, who was suited in body armor and bristling with weapons. "But we are practicing boarding drills for PSI," he said, referring to the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative that aims to block ships from carrying weapons materials to the North.

North Korea is expected to test its long-range Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday, to coincide with Independence Day celebrations in the United States.

The PSI comprises more than 90 nations that have agreed to monitor and possibly inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying illicit cargoes. Currently, a U.S. Navy destroyer is shadowing the North Korean freighter Kang Nam 1 in the South China Sea. The freighter's movements are also being monitored electronically at the South Korean Coast Guard station at Incheon.

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