The United States and South Korea say they will begin a new round of joint military exercises later this month.
Officials said Tuesday the annual exercises, code-named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, will begin February 28 and run through April. They said North Korea has been notified about the drills.
U.S. General Walter Sharp, who leads U.S. and South Korean combined forces on the peninsula, said 12,800 U.S. troops and about 200,000 South Koreans will practice responses “to a number of realistic scenarios beyond defeating a conventional attack.”
South Korean press reports said one scenario involves the risk of instability in North Korea if leader Kim Jong Il dies and his son, Kim Jong Un, is unable to establish control.
The Key Resolve drill involves mainly computer simulations and will last through March 10. The Foal Eagle exercise involves air, ground and naval forces and will continue until April 30.
The annual exercises follow a series of drills mounted late last year in response to North Korea's artillery attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan.
North Korea routinely denounced exercises involving the United States and South Korea as provocations aimed at preparing for an invasion of the North.
Pyongyang has recently softened its tone, reaching out for negotiations with the North. But preparatory talks between the two broke down last week when the South insisted that North Korea apologize for the Yeonpyeong attack and admit to sinking the Cheonan.
North Korea denies any role in the Cheonan sinking and claims that South Korea provoked the Yeonpyeong attack.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.