S. Korea, US complete joint military drill

SEOUL - South Korea and the United States on Friday completed an annual joint military drill denounced by North Korea as a rehearsal for war.

The computer-assisted simulation exercise, named Ulchi Freedom Guardian, was successfully finished after kicking off on August 20, the Combined Forces Command of the two allies said in a statement.

It "strengthened our combined defence and enhanced the readiness of Republic of Korea and US forces," said General James D. Thurman, Combined Forces commander.

"The exercise was based on realistic scenarios that enabled us to provide valuable training on our essential tasks and ensured we are fully prepared to defend the Republic of Korea (South Korea)", he said.

Senior leaders exercised decision-making capabilities and commanders had chances to train in combined planning, military intelligence, logistics and control operations through computer simulations.

It also allowed the two countries to "evaluate and improve joint air coordination procedures, plans and systems including Combined Space Operations" using satellites.

More than 30,000 US troops, including most of those based in the South plus 3,000 from overseas, took part in the drill.

Pyongyang's state media has slammed the exercise is an "an all-out war rehearsal" against the North.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un called the drill a grave threat and said his army was ready to deal "deadly blows" if their territory was violated during the exercise.

On the eve of the start of the drill, he took pains to visit a frontline artillery unit that carried out a deadly 2010 bombardment of a South Korean island near the disputed western sea border.

Kim praised its personnel as heroes and told them never to tolerate enemy aggression.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and a peace treaty has not yet been signed.

Cross-border tensions have been high since the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships with the loss of 46 lives in March 2010.

The North angrily denied involvement but went on to shell the Yeonpyeong island in November of the same year, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.

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