(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. set for 'largest-ever' live-fire drills to mark alliance's 70th anniv.
(ATTN: UPDATES with official's remarks, more details in paras 4, 8, 12-14; RECASTS 6th para)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States plan to conduct their "largest-ever" combined live-fire drills in June as part of a program to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their alliance, Seoul's defense ministry said Wednesday.
The ministry unveiled the program designed to strengthen the allies' solidarity, demonstrate their militaries' technological edge and highlight their focus on "realizing peace through strength via action," according to the ministry.
The allies have fleshed out the program amid joint efforts to reinforce deterrence against North Korea's continued provocations, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week.
"We are planning to conduct various events, through which the South Korean and U.S. militaries can show to the international community and North Korea what achievements we have made in the defense, military sector," a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
For the live-fire training set for June, the two sides will mobilize high-tech military equipment, including pieces integrating both manned and unmanned assets, to demonstrate the alliance's firepower and maneuverability.
More than 10 such high-profile firepower demonstrations have taken place since 1977. They include both combined and South Korea-only drills.
South Korea is also seeking to hold the Armed Forces Day ceremony with the participation of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in late September to demonstrate the alliance's "overwhelming" deterrence and response capabilities against North Korean threats, according to the ministry.
"We have been coordinating with the U.S. based on our intent to showcase not only our capabilities but also those of the USFK in celebration of the anniversary," the official said.
In addition, Seoul and Washington are working to craft a future defense vision of the bilateral alliance to be announced at their annual defense ministerial talks, called the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM), expected to come in October.
During the SCM, the allies plan to jointly host the first-ever meeting with defense ministers from member countries of the United Nations Command to reaffirm their support for security on the Korean Peninsula and strengthen solidarity with them, the ministry said.
The South and the U.S. signed their mutual defense treaty, a bedrock alliance document, in October 1953, after the Korean War ended in a truce three months earlier.
Meanwhile, the veterans ministry plans to hold a series of events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the Korean War, officials said.
Those include a major ceremony to be held on July 27 in Busan, 325 kilometers south of Seoul.
It is to involve the participation of 22 countries that sent troops or other forms of support to back South Korea during the conflict. On the eve of the event, veterans affairs officials from the countries plan to hold a joint meeting, the officials said.
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