Saturday, March 11, 2006

U.S. Announces Military Drills That Pyongyang Hates

United States and South Korean troops will stage a major joint exercise later this month, the U.S. military said on Friday, referring to annual drills that Pyongyang has in the past criticized as a dry run for an invasion. The March 25-31 drills come as six-country talks on ending the North's nuclear programs have hit a snag over a U.S. crackdown on firms Washington suspects of helping Pyongyang in illicit activities such as counterfeiting. South Korean and U.S. troops will hold field exercises called Foal Eagle along with another joint drill. They are designed to coordinate defenses of the southern half of the peninsula.
United States & Republic of Korea Marines train together in South Korea
About 25,00 U.S. troops will participate, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesman said by telephone, adding he could not disclose the number of South Korean soldiers taking part. North Korea has said the joint military drills are one reason it is refusing to return to the table. U.S. and South Korean forces describe Foal Eagle as regular exercises they have held for more than four decades, while North Korea typically denounces them. Last year, it described them in its official media as "reckless large-scale nuclear war exercises for a pre-emptive nuclear strike at the DPRK". DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. There are about 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea in support of some 690,000 South Korean troops. The North has about 1.2 million troops. The two Koreas are technically at war because the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.