SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea and the United States will hold a joint military exercise next month to prepare for Seoul's plans to retake wartime command of its forces, the U.S. military said Friday.
The March 2-7 drill, called Key Resolve, replaces previous annual exercises held since 1994 to practice how to receive troops that would flood into the Korean peninsula in case of war.
The new exercise will involve similar maneuvers, but South Korean forces will take on more leadership in preparation for the command transfer, said U.S. military spokesman Kim Yong-kyu. Some 27,000 American troops and an unidentified number of South Koreans will take part, he said.
South Korea transferred control of its troops to the U.S. in 1950 after the outbreak of the Korean War. It regained peacetime control of its troops in 1994, but the top U.S. general here is still supposed to command South Korean forces if war breaks out.
In a pact finalized last year, South Korea and the U.S. agreed Seoul will retake wartime control of its forces in April 2012.
North Korea routinely condemns joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, calling them preparations to invade the communist state. The U.S. and South Korea say they are purely defensive.
The U.S.-led United Nations Command has informed North Korea's military that next month's drill "is not meant to be provocative in any way," the U.S. military said in a statement.
The other major annual U.S.-South Korean war game, known as Ulchi Focus Lens, will also be changed to reflect the command shift and will be renamed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Kim said.