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Joint ROK-U.S. military drills kick off

Reuters SEOUL (Reuters) — South Korean and U.S. troops began a large-scale joint military exercise on Wednesday conducted annually to test their defense readiness against the threat from North Korea, which routinely characterizes the drills as preparation for war against it.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, comes amid heightened tension following the latest test launch of a ballistic missile by the North on Feb. 12 and in the past prompted threats by Pyongyang to launch military action in retaliation.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. military based there confirmed the start of the drills on Wednesday. The drills will continue until the end of April.

The exercise last year involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-Koo early on Wednesday by telephone and said the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of its ally.Speech

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