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Record number of Australian, New Zealand troops taking part in joint military drill

All Headlines 16:05 March 11, 2016

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- A record number of troops from Australia and New Zealand are taking part in the ongoing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, which aim to bolster the allied forces' ability to deal with emergency situations, a military official said Friday.

Seoul and Washington kicked off the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises for a weekslong run Monday in South Korea, mobilizing some 300,000 local troops, along with 17,000 U.S. forces.

The Key Resolve is a two-week command post-based exercise, while the Foal Eagle is an eight-week field training war game that includes the massive Ssangyong landing drill set for Saturday.

This year's exercises will be the biggest of their kind in size as they come on the heels of North Korea's surprise nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test last month.

The amphibious landing exercise involving Navy and Marine forces will also gather together some 130 Australian and 50 New Zealand troops in addition to personnel from the two allies, the military source said.

This marks the largest contingent of soldiers that Australia has sent to the landing exercise being staged in the eastern coastal port city of Pohang. For New Zealand, it is the first time it has dispatched troops to the drill.

Along with the U.S., the two other nations are among the 17 countries that are currently stationing military forces under the flag of the United Nations Command, which fought for South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The multinational troops remain in the country under the U.N. flag because the bloody conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

"The participation of Australia and New Zealand shows the international community's determination to deter any reckless provocations by North Korea," the official said.

For the amphibious landing, the U.S. will send some 9,200 Marine and 3,000 Navy forces, while South Korea will dispatch a combined 4,500 Navy and Marine troops.

Nearly 30 South Korean and U.S. vessels will join the massive drill, including the amphibious assault vessels, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and USS Boxer (LHD-4).

Switzerland and Sweden will send personnel as observers as they are members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, which is tasked with making certain all forces abide by the armistice.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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