SEOUL, March 2 (Xinhua) -- South Korea and the United States started their annual joint springtime war games on Wednesday amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.
"Foal Eagle," field training exercises involving ground, air and naval forces, will run through the end of April. Separately the allies plan to conduct "Key Resolve," a computer-simulated command post exercise, starting March 13, Yonhap quoted the South Korean Defense Ministry as saying.
Citing the ballistic missile launch of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Feb. 12, South Korea and the United States plan to stage the largest-ever joint drills this year, with the largest number of U.S. troops and strategic assets to be mobilized for this year's joint drills.
In last year's drill, about 17,000 U.S. soldiers and the nuclear-powered John C. Stennis aircraft carrier were involved.
Mobilized for this year's exercises would be the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its attendant fleet that are accompanied by 24 F/A-18 fighter jets, 10 aerial tankers, 10 S-3A anti-submarine airplanes, six SH-3H anti-submarine helicopters, four EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft and four E-2 airborne early warning aircraft.
Other strategic assets to be brought to the drills would be the B-1B strategic bomber, the nuclear-capable B-52 long-range bomber, the F-35B and F-22 stealth fighter jets.
On the first day of the joint exercises, top-level defense and security officials of the two allies had phone talks to reaffirm the deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system in South Korea by the end of this year, in a bid to deal with what they said nuclear and missile threats from the DPRK.
Analysts think that if the joint drills are to exercise preemptive attacks on the DPRK, the U.S. B-1B strategic bomber and nuclear-capable B-52 long-range bomber would carry the task of precisely attacking important DPRK military sites such as its nuclear test sites or missile launch bases.
Some U.S. military experts believe the DPRK is now developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the most powerful deterrent of the DPRK in the future. Thus this year's drill might also include attacks on DPRK's submarines.
The unprecedented scale of this year's joint drills is bound to further irritate the DPRK and is likely to bring danger to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
Yonhap commented that since the first day of exercises, the Korean Peninsula has entered a dangerous scenario.
Ever since the two allies started joint drills in 1953, the DPRK has always voiced its strong opposition and dissatisfaction, denouncing them as dress rehearsals for northward invasion. This time is no exception.
The KCNA said on Thursday that the DPRK army will "mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword of justice."