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US, South Korea to Hold Annual War Drills

  • VOA News

FILE - U.S. and South Korean Marines run from a South Korean assault amphibious vehicle during joint military exercises in Pohang, south of Seoul, April 26, 2013.

FILE - U.S. and South Korean Marines run from a South Korean assault amphibious vehicle during joint military exercises in Pohang, south of Seoul, April 26, 2013.

The United States and South Korea will begin their annual joint military exercises early next month, Seoul announced Tuesday, in a move sure to anger North Korea.

South Korea's Defense Ministry says Key Resolve, a mostly computer simulated exercise, and Foal Eagle, a larger field training drill, will both begin on March 2.

The war games are a perpetual source of tension on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang views them as preparation to invade. Seoul and Washington insist they are deterrent in nature.

Earlier this month, Pyongyang offered to temporarily halt its nuclear weapons testing if the U.S. and South Korea canceled the military exercises.

Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing Tuesday North Korea's "position and provocative remarks will have no impact."

"The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were planned since last year, and we are conducting them unrelated to North Korea's stance. They are annual drills of a defensive nature," said Kim.

Kim also said Seoul has informed North Korea of the planned drills, but has not yet received a response.

North Korea, which has carried out three nuclear tests, has in the past used the drills as an occasion to threaten a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, though experts doubt it has this capability.

Pyongyang insists its nuclear weapons program is defensive in nature and necessary to counter the 28,500 American troops stationed across the border.

The two Koreas have been technically in a state of war for more than 60 years. The agreement that ended the 1950-53 civil war hostilities was only a truce.

The Key Resolve war game exercise will last from March 2 to 13 and will involve about 10,000 South Korean and 8,600 U.S. troops. Foal Eagle will last until April 24 and is expected to include 200,000 South Korean and 3,700 U.S. soldiers.

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