S. Korea, US to conduct joint military drill
SEOUL - South Korea and the United States on Saturday said they would launch an annual military exercise later this month, routinely denounced by North Korea as an "all-out war rehearsal".
The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) will conduct the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise from August 19 through to August 30, the CFC said in a press statement.
"Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a critical alliance exercise to sustain the readiness" of the two allies' armed forces, said General James Thurman, commander of the 28,500 US troops based in the South.
About 30,000 US troops, including most of those based in the South plus 3,000 from overseas, are taking part in the drill, a CFC spokesman told AFP. More than 50,000 South Korean troops will also take part, Yonhap news agency said.
The drill is largely a computer-simulated exercise, with troops remaining in their normal bases.
Hours after the CFC notified the North of the planned exercise, there was no official reaction from Pyongyang.
Pyongyang has previously reacted angrily to such drills, branding them all-out war rehearsals and vowing to bolster its "nuclear deterrence".
The announcement came as the two Koreas are to hold a fresh meeting on the reopening of a shutdown joint industrial estate in the North on Wednesday.
Rodong Sinmuun, the official daily of the North's ruling communist party, on Saturday called for mending ties with the South.
It urged Seoul to abide by a 2000 joint declaration for reconciliation and exchange adopted at a landmark inter-Korean summit.
The two Koreas have already held six rounds of fruitless talks aimed at resuming operations at the Kaesong complex, shuttered down by Pyongyang in early April as military tensions on the Korean peninsula soared.
Both sides blamed the other for its closure, with the North insisting that its hand was forced by hostile South Korean actions and intimidation - in particular, a series of joint military exercises with the United States.