S Korea, U.S. start joint military drills

11:19, March 08, 2010      

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South Korea and the United States started Monday their annual joint military exercises called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, a day after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) denounced the drills as a preparation for invasion and threatened to strengthen its nuclear deterrence.

The Key Resolve exercise is aimed at rehearsing the defense of South Korea in case of emergencies, and Foal Eagle, counter- infiltration exercises, is focused on improving combined and joint operational posture between the two militaries.

Local media here reported about 10,000 U.S. troops and 8,000 reinforcement personnel will be participating in the joint drill for the Key Resolve exercise, and 20,000 South Korean troops will be involved in the Foal Eagle.

The annual event met with largely expected denunciation from the DPRK, which threatened in a statement on Sunday to sever all military communications between the two Koreas and stop its denuclearization process.

The threats also came at a time when efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the stalled nuclear disarmament talks are underway, with many anticipating the resumption of the talks in the near future.

Meanwhile, officials in Seoul played down the threats, calling them "hackneyed."

"(South Korea and the U.S.) have carried out the exercises every year, and we've notified North Korea (DPRK) of the drills. The North is well aware of the characteristics of the drills. We consider their condemnation typical, and there's no special response to the criticism," Seoul's Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said in a Monday's briefing, adding that no unusual move by the DPRK's army has been detected.

"Something that a North's spokesman says wouldn't change North Korea's military policy or strategies toward the South," Won added.

The exercises are scheduled to end on March 18.

Source: Xinhua
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