and South Korean military officials confirm the two allied nations are planning
a major military drill, expected to begin this week. The exercise focuses on a
simulated marine landing and comes at a time when North Korea has sharpened its
rhetoric against the South. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin
South Korea's Marine Corps released an official
statement Wednesday, confirming the country's forces will cooperate with the
United States in a joint military drill, starting Thursday and continuing
through to November 8.
Dave Palmer, a spokesman for
U.S. Forces in Korea, says it will involve about 10,000 personnel - mainly
"It's just an amphibious
landing, I mean it's that rehearsal of all the elements it takes to pull that
off," he said.
North and South Korea remain
technically at war. The North invaded the South in 1950. Months later, U.S.
Marines staged their historic amphibious landing at Korea's port city, Incheon.
The operation succeeded, despite unfavorable conditions. It became the first of
many amphibious landings that drove North Korean forces back to the North-South
border outlined in a 1953 armistice. The United States stations about 28,000
forces in South Korea and has vowed to supply many more in the event of another
North Korean attack.
Wednesday's South Korean
Marine statement says this month's amphibious drill will involve 27 naval ships,
more than 30 helicopters and about 70 other amphibious landing vehicles.
About 2,000 U.S. Marines are being brought to South Korea from
bases in Okinawa, Japan, to work side by side with nearly 8,000 South Korean
counterparts in the drill. It is to be centered near South Korea's port city,
Pohang, and will include practice crossings of a large South Korean
For decades, North Korea has
denounced joint South Korean-American military exercises as a rehearsal for
aggression against the North. Palmer, the U.S. spokesman, says the upcoming
exercise is routine.
"It's not done in any
provocative manner of any means. It's just training. Everybody's notified. It's
just part of our normal cycle," he said.
This exercise comes at a
sensitive time in inter-Korean relations. On Tuesday, North Korea threatened to
turn the South into "debris" in reprisal for leaflets launched into the North by
Also Tuesday, Japanese Prime
Minister Aso Taro said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was probably hospitalized
and not in very good condition. The North Korean leader's health is a serious
security issue because no one is sure if the North's authoritarian system can
hold together without him.