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By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and U.S. forces on Thursday successfully completed an annual war game amid high military tensions with North Korea, military officials said, but they continue to maintain high alert in the wake of fresh threats of attack from Pyongyang.
About 10,000 South Korean soldiers and 3,000 American personnel participated in the computer-assisted simulation exercise called Key Resolve, with about 2,500 of the U.S. participants from a U.S. base in Hawaii. The 10-day training exercise involved weapons and equipment deployed from overseas, such as a B-52 bomber and a nuclear attack submarine, in a show of force against the North's nuclear ambition.
Military leaders said this year's training, which was first planned and executed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), paved the way for the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul in December 2015.
"This year's exercise was a great success for the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance," Gen. Jung Seung-jo, JCS chairman, said, referring to South Korea by its official name. "Our combined forces effectively exercised our plans to defend the Republic of Korea against external aggression and restore stability to the Korean Peninsula."
Gen. James Thurman, Combined Forces Command commander also stressed the importance of this year's drill.
"These exercises also demonstrate our commitment to the alliance and enhance our ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise," Thurman said in a statement.
Separate from Key Resolve, a joint field training exercise called Foal Eagle, which began on March 1, will run through April 30 to test the combat readiness of South Korea and U.S. forces.
Although the routine drills ended, military officials say they will stay on high alert to deter possible attacks as military tensions are still high on the peninsula.
On Wednesday, Pyongyang's state media reported that leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a mock drone strike on South Korea and issued fresh threats to attack U.S. military bases on Japan and the Pacific Island of Guam if provoked. Hours before the joint forces announced the end of the Key Resolve drill at noon on Thursday, the North's state media issued air raid alerts as part of a one-hour civil drill.
"It is hard to forecast when and where North Korea's drone will attack. But our military has various detection and target systems, including surveillance radars," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "We plan to step up detection system, missile system interception system placing a close tap on the North Korean drone's capability and deployment."
About 28,500 American forces are stationed in South Korea.
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