ROK, US kick off largest-ever annual war games

Updated: 2016-03-07 10:56


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SEOUL - The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States on Monday kicked off their largest-ever annual war games, weeks after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, Combined Forces Command (CFC) said in a statement.

The drills, code-named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are scheduled to run by the end of next month. The Key Resolve command post exercise based on computer simulation will be carried out through March 18, with the Foal Eagle field training exercise lasting until April 30.

The United States will mobilize some 17,000 troops, more than double the number of previous years, and deploy a combat aviation brigade and an expeditionary Marine brigade. About 300,000 ROK personnel will be involved, some 1.5 times more than its average deployment for the annual drills.

The CFC said that the United Nations Command, the unified command structure for the multinational military forces supporting the ROK during and after the Korean War, had informed the Korean People's Army of the DPRK through the truce village of Panmunjom about the exercise dates and their non-provocative nature.

The largest exercises, ever staged on the Korean peninsula, came after the DPRK tested what it claimed was its first hydrogen bomb on Jan 6 and followed up with the launch of a long-range rocket, which outsiders see as a disguised test of ballistic missile technology, on Feb 7.

In an apparent warning to Pyongyang over its nuclear test and rocket launch, the US forces would show off its firepower during the drills by deploying various strategic assets such as a nuclear-powered John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and its attendant fleet, a nuclear-capable submarine and aerial tankers to refuel fighter jets. The B-2 stealth bomber is also under consideration for deployment.

The CFC said the USS John C. Stennis Strike Group is scheduled to conduct a routine port visit to the ROK's southern port city of Busan from March 13. The group consists of Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale, USS Chung-Hoon and USS William P. Lawrence and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay as well as the aircraft carrier.