Korea, US to conduct joint military exercise in late Aug.
Korean and U.S. forces will launch their annual joint exercise in late August to improve their defense posture against the belligerent North Korea, military officials said Monday.
The Combined Forces Command (CFC) said in a statement the two allies will hold the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) from Aug. 20-31. The computer-aided exercises will mobilize some 56,000 South Korean troops and about 30,000 U.S. soldiers, including some 3,000 from the U.S. and other bases around the Pacific region, the CFC said.
The CFC said the troops from seven United Nations Command states -- Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and France -- will participate in the drill as observers.
"Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a key exercise to strengthen the readiness of Republic of Korea and U.S. forces," Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said in a statement. "It is based on realistic scenarios and enables us to train on our essential tasks with a whole of government."
North Korea has long balked at these joint maneuvers, claiming they amount to a prelude to war. Seoul and Washington have countered that the drill is defensive in nature.
The U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission on Friday informed Pyongyang through its border village Panmunjom of the exercise dates and "non-provocative nature" of the training, a CFC official said.
Tension on the Korean Peninsula remains high following the North's two military attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. The South's military has vowed a tougher retaliation if provoked again.
Last week, Pyongyang said it may reexamine its nuclear program because of fresh signs of U.S. hostility toward the communist state, accusing it of masterminding an attack on the statues of its dead leaders by sending a defector who had fled to the South back into the country to destroy them.
The Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed here as a legacy of the war. (Yonhap)