S Korea-ARF-disaster drills

SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Thailand will jointly host military-led disaster relief exercises in May with ASEAN nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union, in an effort to improve the region's capacity for a multinational disaster relief response, a Seoul official said Monday.

The four-day drills in the Thai resort town of Cha-Am, scheduled to begin on May 7, are the third of their kind since the 27-nation ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia's top security forum, launched the biennial multinational maneuver in 2009.

About 2,000 personnel from the ARF are expected to take part in the disaster relief drills, said Oh Young-ju, the deputy director-general at the bureau of development cooperation at Seoul's foreign ministry.

"This year's objective is to advance and build the capacity of ARF members in civil-military coordination efforts in response to disasters," Oh said in a statement.

"Also, various scenarios will be practiced to further advance the progress in multinational disaster response capabilities made during the last two exercises."

South Korea plans to send about 100 government officials, 100 military personnel and military cargo planes to this year's drills, Oh said.

Disaster relief has been one of the key topics of the ARF since a tsunami swept through the region in late 2004, killing 220,000 people in a dozen countries.

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