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(LEAD) Military to kick off annual defense drill next week

All Headlines 15:50 November 16, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with JCS officials correcting that U.S. marines won't join landing maneuver this year in paras 4-5)

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Tuesday it will launch a large-scale annual exercise next week to sharpen its joint combat capabilities against North Korea.

About 70,000 troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marine Corps will be mobilized for the "Hoguk Exercise," set to take place from Monday through Nov. 30, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

"This year's exercise is aimed at focusing on improving interoperability among the four military branches and the integrity of their military assets," said a JCS official.

The JCS had originally said that the Marines would stage a joint landing maneuver on the western shores of the Korean Peninsula with their U.S. counterparts, who would be called in from their base in Okinawa, Japan, as part of the nine-day drill.

It later said that the U.S. marines will not be taking part, citing an unspecified reason regarding the U.S. unit in Okinawa.

The upcoming drill is one of the South Korean military's three major annual defense exercises, along with the Taegeuk and Hwarang exercises.

Tensions on the peninsula have remained high since the March sinking of a South Korean warship that has been blamed on North Korea. Although a Seoul-led multinational investigation confirmed in May that the North was behind the torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors, Pyongyang has consistently denied any involvement in the attack.


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