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S. Korea, U.S. to kick off largest-ever joint exercise

All Headlines 10:20 March 06, 2016

SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States will launch their largest-ever joint exercise this week to warn North Korea against further provocations, a South Korean military official said Sunday.

The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises running from Monday through April 30 will be the largest in scale since Pyongyang's torpedo attack on the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010, which is what triggered these annual drills, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

This year's exercise will involve more than 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 U.S. troops and simulate previously unattempted strategies.

The Key Resolve portion of the exercise will include OPLAN 5015, which aims to remove the North's weapons of mass destruction and prepare the allied troops for a pre-emptive strike in the event of a North Korean attack.

"The OPLAN 5015 was included in the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise last year, but this is the first time for it to be carried out in a Key Resolve exercise," another South Korean military official said. The UFG is another combined military exercise conducted by South Korea and the U.S.

Meanwhile, this year's Ssangyong exercise will also be the largest-ever, involving more than 5,000 South Korean marine and Navy personnel, 7,000 U.S. marine troops and five maritime prepositioning ships. It runs from Monday to March 18.

During the exercise period, the allies will strengthen their monitoring of the North for any signs of pre-emptive attack.

"We will carry out these exercises while keeping tabs on signs of North Korean provocations," a South Korean official said. "If the North provokes us during this exercise, the U.S. and our troops will retaliate with an attack ten-fold stronger."

The warning was made after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military on standby for pre-emptive nuclear strikes earlier this week.

sojungpark@yna.co.kr
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