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South Korea, U.S. to Hold Massive Military Drill

South Korean troops prepare for a drill during the 2011 Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise in Seoul. The 2012 iteration of the U.S.-South Korean exercise is due to begin on Aug. 20 (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man). South Korean troops prepare for a drill during the 2011 Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise in Seoul. The 2012 iteration of the U.S.-South Korean exercise is due to begin on Aug. 20 (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man).

The U.S. and South Korean militaries are slated to stage a yearly large-scale drill next month in accordance with allied efforts to defend against a belligerent North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, July 20).

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise is to begin on Aug. 20 and to last through Aug. 31. Approximately 30,000 U.S. troops and roughly 56,000 South Korean military personnel are to take part in the computer-assisted drill, the Combined Forces Command announced.

Military personnel from seven U.N. Command nations -- Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Norway, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom -- are to observe the exercise.

"Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a key exercise to strengthen the readiness of Republic of Korea and U.S. forces," said the head of U.S. military personnel in South Korea, Gen. James Thurman. "It is based on realistic scenarios and enables us to train on our essential tasks with a whole of government."

Pyongyang typically opposes such bilateral military drills, characterizing them as preparations for an invasion. On Friday, the Stalinist state declared it would "totally re-examine" its nuclear weapons posture in light of its perception of a hostile U.S. policy against North Korea (Kim Eun-jung, Yonhap News Agency I, July 23).

North Korea declared weeks ago it had no present plans to detonate a new atomic device -- an action the aspiring nuclear power had been perceived preparing for this past spring. It was not immediately clear whether the North's Friday statement signaled a third nuclear test could now be in the offing.

Washington on Friday rejected Pyongyang's claim of an antagonistic policy. "As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States is committed to the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and has no hostile intent toward the D.P.R.K.," an anonymous State Department official told Yonhap.

"We believe strongly that North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations; such behavior will only continue to isolate the country and provide no real opportunity for engagement with the international community," the spokesman said. "We continue to call on North Korea to adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and human rights conventions" (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency II, July 20).

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