(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. warship's arrival in paras 7-9; RECASTS paras 2, 10)
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korean, U.S. and British Marines have staged combined "high-intensity" airborne and maritime infiltration drills in a southeastern coastal area, the Marine Corps here said Thursday, in a move to bolster joint operational capabilities.
The drills took place in Pohang, 272 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Wednesday and Thursday, as part of the ongoing South Korea-U.S. Ssangyong amphibious landing exercise that runs through April 3.
The exercise mobilized reconnaissance units from the South's 1st Marine Division and the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as troops from Britain's Royal Marines Commandos. It marked British troops' first participation in the exercise.
During the drills, the combined troops infiltrated a target area for amphibious landing operations by sea and air, scouted the area and directed precision fire strikes at enemy targets, the Marine Corps said.
On the second day of the exercise, the troops were set to conduct shooting drills while on the move, and strengthen their capabilities to carry out combined missions designed in part to adapt to and maneuver in Korean terrain, it added.
"This exercise served as an opportunity for South Korean, U.S. and British Marine reconnaissance troops to share each of their skills and strengthen their mission capabilities through realistic training," Lt. Col. Kim Cheol-myoung, commander of the South Korean unit, was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island arrived in Busan, 325 km southeast of Seoul, on Wednesday to join the Ssangyong exercise. It is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group.
Its arrival came hours after the North fired multiple cruise missiles into the East Sea in apparent protest over ongoing South Korea-U.S. military drills, which it has decried as preparations for a "war of aggression" against it.
On Thursday, the U.S. military gave reporters a tour of the flat-deck vessel equipped with 10 F-35B stealth fighters capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, as well as other aircraft.
The Ssangyong exercise has been proceeding in and around Pohang in line with the allies' push to reinforce readiness against North Korea's military threats. "Ssangyong" means double dragon in Korean.
The drills had not been held since 2018 amid the preceding Moon Jae-in administration's drive for inter-Korean rapprochement.
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