SEOUL — U.S. and South Korean troops will stage an annual joint exercise next month to improve their combat-readiness, military authorities said July 23 amid high cross-border tensions.
The allies will hold Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a largely computer-simulated exercise, on Aug. 20-31, the Combined Forces Command said in a statement.
North Korea has been told of the dates and of the nonprovocative nature of the exercise, it said.
The drill will involve many of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South, as well as some 3,000 from abroad, but there will be no field training, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Seoul’s defense ministry said each unit involved would test its readiness for contingencies under a war scenario, with command posts linked to each other through computer.
The ministry declined to confirm a Yonhap news agency report that 56,000 South Korean troops would be involved.
The allies describe their annual exercises as defensive and routine, but the North habitually terms them a rehearsal for invasion and launches its own counter-exercises.
In addition to the regular annual exercises, South Korea has staged a series of drills alone or with U.S. troops since it accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships, killing 46 in March 2010.
The North denied the charge but went on to shell a border island in November 2010, killing four South Koreans.
Tensions are high after the North’s failed rocket launch in April, seen by the U.S. and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.
Pyongyang has also threatened attacks on the South’s government and conservative media for perceived insults to its regime.