US and S Korea troops stage massive live-dire drill

US and S Korea troops stage massive live-dire drill

POCHEON - Agence France-Presse
US and S Korea troops stage massive live-dire drill

Bombs explode on a mountain range during a joint live firing drill between South Korea and the US at the Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, 65 kms northeast of Seoul, on August 28, 2015. AFP Photo

South Korean and U.S. troops staged their biggest-ever joint live-fire drill on Aug. 28, including a simulated mechanized assault deep into North Korean territory just days after the two Koreas ended a tense military standoff.

The exercise, conducted in several stages, envisaged an initial North Korean provocation, followed by an escalating clash, and culminating in a counter-attack across the border.

The drill was held near the border town of Pocheon, about 20 kilometers south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which splits the Korean peninsula between North and South.

“In terms of ammunition and personnel mobilized, this is the biggest live-fire exercise South Korean troops have ever staged independently or jointly with U.S. troops,” a defense ministry spokesman told AFP.

It involved some 3,000 U.S. and South Korean soldiers, around 100 tanks and armored vehicles, 120 heavy guns, 45 helicopters and more than 40 jet fighters.

It followed a recent surge in cross-border military tensions that had pushed both Koreas to the brink of an armed conflict, before a negotiated deal to de-escalate was reached on Aug. 25.  

The drill opened with a simulated North Korean attack on a South Korean guard post.

The defense ministry’s original scenario had role-played an attack on South Korean loudspeakers blasting propaganda messages across the border, but it was revised after the Aug. 25 agreement saw the South switch the speakers off.

The second stage of the exercise played out a North Korean raid across the heavily fortified border.

The final element was a counter-attack and simulated advance by South Korean and U.S. mechanized units deep into North Korean territory to destroy missile facilities, command posts and other key facilities near Pyongyang.

The drill was played out in front of 2,000 guests including President Park Geun-Hye and senior U.S. and South Korean military officials.