(LEAD) Allies to resume large-scale amphibious drills next week after 5-year hiatus

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States plan to kick off their first large-scale amphibious landing exercise in five years next week, in a show of the allies' "overwhelming" military capabilities, the Navy and Marine Corps here said Friday.

The Ssangyong training is set to take place in and around Pohang, 272 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Monday through April 3 to enhance the allies' combat readiness and interoperability, according to the armed services. "Ssangyong" means double dragon in Korean.

It had not been held since its last edition in 2018 amid the preceding Moon Jae-in administration's drive for inter-Korean rapprochement. Its resumption comes in line with the allies' push to reinforce combined drills to counter evolving North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

"The upcoming training will demonstrate the South Korea-U.S. alliance's will to realize 'peace through strength,' and we will further strengthen the combined defense posture to defend South Korea," Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Gye-hwan was quoted as saying.

For this year's exercise, the South and the U.S. plan to mobilize division-level amphibious landing forces and some 30 vessels, including the allies' amphibious assault ships, ROKS Dokdo and USS Makin Island.

They will also deploy some 70 aircraft, such as F-35B radar-evading fighter jets and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and around 50 amphibious assault vehicles.

For the first time, about 40 British Marine troops will take part in the exercise, while personnel from Australia, France and the Philippines are to participate as observers, according to the officials. Troops from Australia and New Zealand took part in past Ssangyong exercises.

It entails an array of contingency procedures, such as clearing mines, removing threat elements on the ground, providing fire support in amphibious landing locations and conducting airborne and seaborne assault operations, officials said.

Meanwhile, special warfare forces from the allies' Navies recently wrapped up their regular Flash Knife exercise in Changwon, 301 km southeast of Seoul, and Pyeongchang, 126 km east of the capital. The exercise is known to target an enemy leadership under a crisis scenario.

Separately, the allies' Army troops staged combined logistics support drills in the border county of Cheorwon, 71 kilometers northeast of Seoul, this week.

Some 700 troops took part in the five-day drills through Friday, focusing on strengthening the allies' interoperability, according to the South's Army.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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