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US military reveals last week's combined Marine drills with S. Korea

US Marine troops refuel a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during the Korea Marine Exercise Program in Pohang, 374 kilometers south of Seoul, last Wednesday, in this file photo released by the US 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. (Yonhap)
US Marine troops refuel a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during the Korea Marine Exercise Program in Pohang, 374 kilometers south of Seoul, last Wednesday, in this file photo released by the US 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. (Yonhap)

The US military has disclosed photos of last week's combined Marine drills with South Korean troops in an apparent move to highlight their readiness amid North Korea's evolving military threats.

Posted on the Pentagon's Defense Visual Information Distribution Service last Wednesday, the photos depicted US troops from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 engaging in the Korean Marine Exercise Program (KMEP) drills in Pohang, 374 kilometers south of Seoul.

The disclosure marked a shift from the allies' low-key stance on the drills that had continued over the last several years amid the preceding Moon Jae-in administration's drive for lasting peace with the North.

Seoul officials said the drills, known to be the 10th of its kind this year, took place from July 19-22. Various Marine assets were mobilized, including C-130J transport planes, CH-47 choppers, and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, as well as about 30 South Korean troops and 90 US troops.

"KMEP is a bilateral training exercise that increases interoperability and strengthens the combined capabilities of Republic of Korea Marines and US Marines," the US military said.

A South Korean official said the drills were aimed at training the combined forces for an operation to replenish military supplies at front-line units.

The KEMP exercises are usually held around 20 times a year, although the number fell to 11 in 2018 amid the Moon administration's peace drive. The allies conducted the KMEP drills seven times in 2020 and 16 times last year due partly to COVID-19. (Yonhap)

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