The US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) militaries have completed their annual joint training exercise, Foal Eagle 2013, amid increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Starting on 1 March, days after North Korea’s third nuclear test, the two-month long air, ground and naval field training drills witnessed participation from more than 10,000 US troops and South Korean military counterparts.
Speaking to reporters, South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said the two countries would continue to monitor potential provocations by Pyongyang, including a missile launch, despite the completion of exercise.
"We consider the exercise had made a great outcome," Seok said. "Also this training was led by South Korean military, so it was a good chance to examine South Korean Army’s capability."
Conducted under the supervision of Combined Forces Command (CFC), Foal Eagle is a combined and joint unit tactical field training exercise offering valuable military training based on realistic requirements and missions to help improve the alliance’s readiness to safeguard South Korea, and also ensure peace and security in the region.
As well as deploying nuclear weapons-equipped warships, the US also flew its B-2 and B-52H bombers during the exercise to reaffirm the US nuclear protection for South Korea, prompting North Korea to order its army to be ready to launch ‘preemptive nuclear strikes’ on the country.
North Korea repeatedly called for cancellation of the Foal Eagle exercises, claiming them to be a provocation and a prelude to an invasion.
Already angered with increasing UN sanctions, Pyongyang ended the 60-year-old Armistice Agreement, and also shut down a Red Cross hotline that provided immediate communication between the two countries during emergencies.
Image: The US flew its B-2 Spirit bomber during 2013 Foal Eagle military exercise. Photo: courtesy of Louis Waweru.