South Korea and the U.S. will start the annual joint exercises dubbed Key Resolve/Foal Eagle in the last week of February. They will notify North Korea and other neighboring countries of the schedule early next month.
The Key Resolve drills are command-post exercises with computer-based simulations that do not mobilize troops or equipment in the field. They will take about two weeks.
South Korea and the U.S. practice rapidly deploying a total of 690,000 troops and large-scale reinforcements, including five U.S. aircraft carrier fleets, near the Korean Peninsula in case of a war provoked by the North.
Foal Eagle is a field training exercise for which a lot of personnel and equipment are mobilized starting at the midpoint of the Key Resolve drills. U.S. Marines from Okinawa will join their South Korean counterparts in brigade- and division-level landing exercises in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province and elsewhere.
Another group of some 200,000 South Korean troops and 15,000 U.S. soldiers will practice repelling infiltration into rear areas by about 200,000 North Korean commandos.
"The North is sensitive about the exercises because they are drills aimed at preparing to march up to areas north of Pyongyang, topple the regime and cope with a sudden change there," a military source said. "But they're entirely defensive drills on the assumption of a provocation by the North."