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S. Korea, the US practice takeover drill: report

SEOUL -- South Korean troops practiced a war scenario involving the occupation and stabilization of North Korea during a joint military drill with the United States last month, a report said Tuesday.

The two allies, who staged a similar stabilization exercise in 2010, upgraded it to strengthen the role of the South Korean army in the event of an “emergency situation in the North,” Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said.

It cited an unnamed senior government official, who said the maneuver — called Wind of Freedom — involved humanitarian assistance for North Koreans after occupying the communist state and restoring administrative services.

The exercise was part of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill held from August 20-31 and involving tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops.

The North has habitually condemned the drill as a provocative prelude to war.

“The practice... for the first time let the South Korean military lead overall operations to potentially stabilise the North, with the back-up by the U.S.,” said a military source quoted by Dong-A.

The two nations will stage a similar drill during an annual Key Resolve joint drill to be held early next year, the newspaper added.

Seoul's defense ministry spokesman declined to comment, saying details of military drills were confidential.

In 2010, Walter Sharp, the then commander of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South, said the two allies needed to hold “realistic exercises” for “anything that could happen in Korea” including stability operations.

The North responded angrily to the reported stabilization drill the same year, calling it “absolutely appalling” and accusing the South of trying to topple its regime.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since the Korean War ended in 1953 with a truce rather than a peace treaty.

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