The United States and South Korea wrapped up two weeks of annual joint
military maneuvers on Friday. The training exercises took place
against a backdrop of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula. North Korea responded to the exercises with its usual sharp rhetoric
and also threatened flights of civilian aircraft.
U.S. Marines and their South Korean counterparts kick down doors and open fire on enemies hiding inside.
Their ammunition, and their casualties, are simulated.
It was part of the annual joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces.
14,000 US military personnel came to South Korea for the exercises,
joining another 28,000 troops who are deployed in South Korea year
North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950. That triggered
a three year war that was suspended by an armistice, but never formally
U.S. and South Korean military commanders say this
annual practice is a way of ensuring the South is always prepared for
any future attack by the North.
Lieutenant Colonel Ross
Coffman led the Army task force that came over from the U.S. for the
exercise. He describes the drills as routine and defensive.
train every day for many contingencies," he said. "What we do here is
not different from what we've done in Georgia and Oklahoma. This
particular contingency is a defensive one meant to help our ally."
Korea harshly criticizes these drills every year, describing them as a
rehearsal for invasion. This year the North went further - announcing
it could not "guarantee the safety" of South Korean flights in or near
the North's airspace during the drills.
Much of the action in these joint drills does not take place at practice ranges like this one.
takes place instead on computer screens, behind closed doors - as the
two militaries simulate efforts to communicate with each other when
coordinating the movement of supplies and personnel around the Korean
The drills also take place at sea. A U.S. aircraft
carrier and two AEGIS-class U.S. Destroyers were among the naval ships
sent to South Korea for the exercises.
Destroyers like the USS
Chafee have the advanced technology and missile systems capable of
shooting down ballistic missiles. That is something the United States
has not ruled out doing, if North Korea carries out the launch of a
long range rocket as it has promised to do in early April.
U.S. and its allies say such a launch would violate a United Nations
resolution imposed after Pyongyang conducted a nuclear weapons test in
The Chafee's Korean-American commander, Choi Kee Dong,
says his ship is ready to carry out whatever course of action
"The U.S. Navy is always prepared to
respond in a crisis, and we will do our utmost to make sure that we
carry out our mission," he said.
The joint exercises ended Friday.