U.S. and South Korean military officials confirm the two allied nations are planning a major military drill, expected to begin this week. The exercise focuses on a simulated marine landing and comes at a time when North Korea has sharpened its rhetoric against the South. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.
South Korea's Marine Corps released an official statement Wednesday, confirming the country's forces will cooperate with the United States in a joint military drill, starting Thursday and continuing through to November 8.
Dave Palmer, a spokesman for U.S. Forces in Korea, says it will involve about 10,000 personnel - mainly Marines.
"It's just an amphibious landing, I mean it's that rehearsal of all the elements it takes to pull that off," he said.
North and South Korea remain technically at war. The North invaded the South in 1950. Months later, U.S. Marines staged their historic amphibious landing at Korea's port city, Incheon. The operation succeeded, despite unfavorable conditions. It became the first of many amphibious landings that drove North Korean forces back to the North-South border outlined in a 1953 armistice. The United States stations about 28,000 forces in South Korea and has vowed to supply many more in the event of another North Korean attack.
Wednesday's South Korean Marine statement says this month's amphibious drill will involve 27 naval ships, more than 30 helicopters and about 70 other amphibious landing vehicles.
About 2,000 U.S. Marines are being brought to South Korea from bases in Okinawa, Japan, to work side by side with nearly 8,000 South Korean counterparts in the drill. It is to be centered near South Korea's port city, Pohang, and will include practice crossings of a large South Korean river.
For decades, North Korea has denounced joint South Korean-American military exercises as a rehearsal for aggression against the North. Palmer, the U.S. spokesman, says the upcoming exercise is routine.
"It's not done in any provocative manner of any means. It's just training. Everybody's notified. It's just part of our normal cycle," he said.
This exercise comes at a sensitive time in inter-Korean relations. On Tuesday, North Korea threatened to turn the South into "debris" in reprisal for leaflets launched into the North by private groups.
Also Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Aso Taro said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was probably hospitalized and not in very good condition. The North Korean leader's health is a serious security issue because no one is sure if the North's authoritarian system can hold together without him.