US and South Korea hold massive live fire military drills near Demilitarized Zone
South Korean and US troops have staged their biggest-ever joint live-fire drill, including a simulated mechanised assault deep into North Korean territory, just days after the two Koreas ended a tense military standoff.
The exercise took place in Pocheon, about 12 miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.
Around 3,000 soldiers, 100 tanks and armoured vehicles, 120 heavy guns, 45 helicopters and more than 40 jet fighters were involved in the display.
"In terms of ammunition and personnel mobilised, this is the biggest live-fire exercise South Korean troops have ever staged independently or jointly with US troops," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.
The joint military exercises follow days of tensions between North and South Korea. On Tuesday the two Koreas pulled back from the brink with an accord that allows both sides to save face.
In a carefully crafted piece of diplomacy following more than 40 hours of talks, Pyongyang expressed "regret" that two South Korean soldiers were maimed in a recent land mine blast Seoul blamed on the North.
While not an acknowledgement of responsibility, let alone the "definite apology" South Korea's president had demanded, it allows Seoul to claim some measure of victory in holding the North to account.
South Korea, for its part, agreed to halt anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts on the border, which will let the authoritarian North trumpet to its people a propaganda win over its bitter rival.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby called the accord a compromise. He said it now is up to North Korea "to act and not simply make assurances" about its military activities along the border between the two countries.
The Koreas also struck an important humanitarian agreement by promising to resume in September the emotional reunions of families separated by the Korean War.
The South Korean exercise follows the largest NATO airborne drills in Europe since the end of the Cold War that were held in Germany on Wednesday.
The exercise codenamed Swift Response, held in Hohenfels near Nuremberg, involved troops from the US, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, UK and the US. The aim was to "develop interoperability and improve communication and mutual trust between the air and land military", NATO said in a statement.