South Korean soldiers stand guard at the joint security area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone ) in Paju, South Korea on February 18. The United States and South Korea began large-scale military exercises on Monday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, March 7 (UPI) -- U.S. and South Korean troops launched large-scale military exercises on Monday, a move that drew condemnations from North Korea.
The exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are to be held until April, CNN reported, and, according to The Washington Post, are to include rehearsals of surgical strikes on Pyongyang's weapons facilities.
They are the largest-ever joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
Other training includes "decapitation raids" on the regime of Kim Jong Un, which has resulted in strongly worded statements from Pyongyang, which accused Washington and Seoul of preparing a "beheading operation."
North Korea's National Defense Commission said the "joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of [North Korea], its military counteraction will be more preemptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them."
Pyongyang also stated a "preemptive and offensive nuclear strike" could be made in response to the joint drills.
But a CNN correspondent said the threats are an annual occurrence, and timed to respond to the military exercises, although tensions have increased in 2016 in the wake of sweeping sanctions that passed unanimously at the United Nations Security Council.
International sanctions were adopted following tough measures that were signed into law in Washington, and Seoul is expected take on additional sanctions against North Korea, after suspending operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a jointly operated factory park in North Korea.
The military exercises in the South include ground, air, naval and Special Operations personnel, and include 17,000 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Korean soldiers.
Drills include computer-simulated training and eight weeks of field exercises.