Tue, Aug 23, 2005 - Page 4 News List

US, South Korea commence war games

AFP , SEOUL

US and South Korean troops launched war games yesterday which North Korea has denounced as preparations for an invasion.

This 12-day exercise, named "Ulchi Focus Lens", features computer-simulated drills involving an unspecified number of South Korean soldiers and about 10,000 US troops, US and South Korean military officials said.

The war games started a week before six-party talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons drive are scheduled to resume.

The US says Ulchi Focus Lens is purely defensive, while North Korea insists it is part of preparations to topple its regime.

"This is one of the routine drills which have been staged annually by South Korean and US troops. The war games do not include field training," a US military official said.

North Korea claimed that the maneuvers were aimed at forcing it to accept "unjust demands" at the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

The talks went into a three-week recess on Aug. 7, deadlocked over North Korea's insistence on the right to conduct peaceful nuclear activities.

"This joint saber-rattling will be staged at a time when the process of reconciliation and unity is being promoted between the North and the South under the banner of `by our nation itself,'" the North's official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday.

During an inter-Korean festival in Seoul last week that marked the 60th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese rule, North Korean delegates urged South Korea to abandon its alliance with the US.

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