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U.S., South Korean drills include bin Laden assassination team

By Elizabeth Shim
U.S., South Korean drills include bin Laden assassination team
Joint military exercises in South Korea are bigger in 2017 than in previous years, a senior South Korean government official said Monday. File Photo courtesy of Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA

March 13 (UPI) -- U.S. and South Korean troops are holding the largest joint military exercise the two sides have conducted on the peninsula, and U.S. Special Missions Units responsible for the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, including SEAL Team Six, are taking part.

The participation of special forces in the drills known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 2017 may be an indication the two sides are rehearsing the assassination of Kim Jong Un, Yonhap news agency reported Monday.

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Drills also include the targeting of North Korea's war command and key military facilities, according to the South Korean press report.

Different units will run through drills customized to their function in a war scenario.

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On the South Korean side, forces from the military, navy, air force and marine corps are all being deployed.

A senior South Korean government official who spoke to Yonhap on the condition of anonymity said the annual exercises "Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 2017 are bigger this year than in previous years."

"These troops will conduct various drills according to the changing mission on the peninsula, and according to the nature of their units," the official said.

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The term "changing mission" is a reference to North Korea's growing nuclear weapons program, and a plan to remove the North Korean leadership in response to the escalating threat in the region.

The drills are being expanded to include missions that could target war command facilities or penetrate Pyongyang, and come months after South Korea confirmed in 2016 it has a military plan to remove the North Korean leader.

In previous years, the Foal Eagle exercises have included the deployment of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment, the 19th Special Forces Group, the 353rd Special Operations Group and SEAL Teams 1, 3, 5, 7.

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The U.S. military is also deploying a new Gray Eagle attack drone in South Korea, Stars and Stripes reported Monday.

The drone will be permanently stationed at Kunsan Air Base south of Seoul.

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