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U.S.: Joint Military Exercises in South Korea Not Related to Nuclear Dispute

The U.S. military said Monday it will conduct two joint military exercises with South Korea next month, but added the annual maneuvers are not related to the nuclear dispute with North Korea.

The joint drills are designed to improve the joint U.S.-South Korea forces' ability to defend South Korea against "external aggression," the U.S. military command in Seoul said.

The exercises coincide with a standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons development. The United States and its allies have urged the North to give up its nuclear ambitions, while Pyongyang has accused Washington of planning a pre-emptive military attack.

There was no immediate response from North Korea over the upcoming exercises, but the communist country has routinely denounced past joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises as preparations for an invasion.

One of the exercises -- called "Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration," or RSOI -- will take place March 19-26. A second exercise, Foal Eagle, is scheduled for March 4-April 2, the military statement said.

Foal Eagle, the largest joint U.S.-South Korea field training exercise, has been held since 1961. The RSOI began in 1994.

The United States bases 37,000 troops in South Korea.