Korea, US to hold largest-ever drill to mark 62nd anniversary of war
Korean and U.S. armed forces will hold their largest live-fire exercise this week to mark the 62nd anniversary of the start of the Korean War, as tensions continue between the two Koreas, officials said Monday.
The Friday exercise in Pocheon near the tense border with the North will involve more than 2,000 troops, F-15K combat fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters and tanks, said officials at Seoul's defense ministry.
The one-day drill, to be presided over by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, is aimed at displaying a watertight defense posture and war-fighting capabilities, ministry officials said.
An E-737 Airborne Early Warning and Control plane, dubbed "Peace Eye," and T/A-50 light attack aircraft will take part in such a joint drill for the first time, officials said.
The drill plans to demonstrate how the allies would counter an attack by North Korean armed forces by re-enacting the invasion by the North 62 years ago, officials said.
The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, when tank-led North Korean troops invaded South Korea. The United States and 20 other allied countries fought on the side of South Korea under the U.N. flag. The conflict ended in a cease-fire three years later.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are currently stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.
Also later this week, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will hold two-day trilateral naval maneuvers in waters south of the Korean Peninsula, military officials said.
The three-way exercise, set for Thursday and Friday, will be headed by a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington.
On Monday, North Korea termed the upcoming trilateral drills "military provocations," accusing the U.S. of making "arms buildup moves" in South Korea.
"The DPRK (North Korea) is watching with high vigilance the U.S. preparations for war being expanded in a phased manner. It will increase its self-defense capabilities in every way to protect sovereignty and dignity of the country and nation," a spokesman at the North's foreign ministry said in a report carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korean and U.S. military officials have discussed ways to keep anti-North Korea deterrence strong as North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, appears to stick to a policy of provocative acts, including a failed rocket launch in April. The young leader took over the communist nation after his father and longtime ruler, Kim Jong-il, died last December.
Concern persists that North Korea may soon conduct a third nuclear test and wage military provocation to make amends for its failed launch, despite the North announcing it has no immediate plan to do so. The North's previous two rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests. (Yonhap)