(LEAD) S. Korea, U.S. conduct live-fire drills near inter-Korean border
(ATTN: UPDATES with joint press corps' pool report in last 5 paras; CHANGES dateline; ADDS new photos)
SEOUL/POCHEON, South Korea, March 23 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have staged a large-scale combined live-fire exercise near the inter-Korean border, the South's Army said Thursday, in a show of the allies' "tremendous" firepower amid North Korea's evolving threats.
The four-day drills took place at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon, about 30 kilometers south of the Demilitarized Zone, through Thursday, involving some 100 howitzers, armored vehicles and equipment as well as more than 800 troops, according to the armed service.
The South Korean Army's Capital Mechanized Infantry Division and the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division-ROK/U.S. Combined Division formed joint units for the training that focused on strengthening their interoperability and capability to operate combined firepower assets, it said.
The allies launched the combined division in 2015 to enhance their ability to conduct joint operations. ROK stands for the South's official name, the Republic of Korea.
The drills began with South Korean K9A1 self-propelled howitzers and U.S. M777 towed howitzers carrying out preparatory fires before the South's K1A2 tanks and the U.S.' Stryker armored vehicles made swift maneuvers to overwhelm the enemy, according to the Army.
South Korean K600 combat engineering vehicles and U.S. military engineers then breached regions littered with anti-tank obstacles and allied troops secured their target area after repelling the enemy with machine gun and artillery firing under a counterattack scenario, it said.
"I will tell you nothing motivates a U.S. soldier to be all they can be more than sleeping 10 miles from an adversary. And when that adversary is firing ballistic missiles, that provides an incredible focus to this training," U.S. Army Col. Brandon Anderson told reporters Wednesday during the exercise.
North Korea has recently fired a series of missiles into waters off its coasts, including multiple cruise missiles Wednesday and an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, in an apparent protest against the allies' springtime Freedom Shield military drills set to end Thursday.
Anderson rejected Pyongyang's accusations that the drills serve as rehearsals for an invasion against it.
"Everything we're doing right now is defensive in nature, we are not being offensive," he said. "This scenario is (as) realistic as we can make it and it is what we expect to do during times of conflict."
North Korea has earlier warned that it would take "overwhelming" action against military activities by the allies.
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