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US, S.Korea engage in joint military exercise

PLA Daily 2004-02-25

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Thousands of US and South Korean troops are engaging in a mass joint combat readiness exercise near the heavily-fortified border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), officials said Tuesday.

More than 6,000 US 2nd Infantry Division troops, along with 200 South Korean troops, began a biannual field deployment exercise, dubbed Iron Artep, last week, at various training sites near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Chae Yang-to, a division spokesman of South Korean troops, was quoted by South Korean Yonhap News Agency as saying.

The drill, scheduled to run through March 5, includes obstacle-breaching attacks, a bridging drill and relief-in-place training, he introduced.

Chae said the exercise also involves 2,000 military vehicles, 30 helicopters and other military hardware.

The exercise came at a sensitive time when China, the DPRK, the US, Russia, South Korea and Japan are to hold six-party talks over the DPRK nuclear issue on Wednesday.

The US military and South Korean troops denied any link between the talks and the exercise.

"This is a routine exercise that was planned in advance. It has nothing to do with the six-party talks," Chae said.

The United States keeps 37,000 troops in South Korea.

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