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U.S. combat ship to take part in military drill with S. Korea

The United States plans to send a littoral combat ship to South Korea for their joint military exercise scheduled for next month, the U.S. navy said Sunday.

The USS Fort Worth, a 3,450-ton Freedom-class littoral combat ship, will take part in the Seoul-Washington military drill Foal Eagle due next month during its rotational deployment to the 7th Fleet, said U.S. Naval Forces Korea spokesman Arlo Abrahamson in a statement.

The allies plan to stage their annual field training exercise Foal Eagle in March following the computerized command post exercise Key Resolve to check and boost their crisis management abilities and joint readiness posture.

"It is the first time an LCS has trained with the South Korean Navy and 7th Fleet ships in Northeast Asia," he said, adding the exercise provides "a great chance to increase our combined readiness which ultimately contributes to greater stability for the region."

The combat ship, installed with surface warfare mission package capabilities including an MH-60R helicopter and Mark 110 57-millimeter gun, is capable of getting closer to shore than larger ships during diverse scenarios, which "brings speed, maneuverability and shallow draft to this exercise," according to the U.S. navy.

Noting that the naval portion of the Foal Eagle exercises will feature "a full spectrum of maritime operations," the U.S. said the training incorporates such scenarios as gunnery exercises, communication drills, dynamic ship maneuvers, logistical rehearsals and liaison officer exchanges between the two countries.

The major joint drills usually mobilizes thousands of American troops, with officials here saying the number of U.S. service personnel for Foal Eagle this year is to be reduced while that for Key Resolve is to rise. Last year, the two-week Key Resolve involved 10,000 South Korean troops and some 5,200 American forces.

For Foal Eagle, some 200,000 South Korean forces and 7,500 American troops were mobilized.

The planned exercises are expected to further heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as North Korea has repeated threats, claiming the exercises are "a dress rehearsal for a northward invasion." Seoul and Washington said the regular drills are defensive in nature. (Yonhap)