US and South Korea wrap up "Foal Eagle" military drills

File photo: US and South Korean marines during a joint military drill, 26 April 2013 Around 10,000 US ground, air and naval troops have been involved in the military drills

The US and South Korea have wrapped up joint military drills that took place amid high tensions with North Korea.

Pyongyang has been angered by the two-month annual exercise, known as "Foal Eagle", which began shortly after its third nuclear test in February.

Meanwhile, seven South Korean workers have remained in a joint industrial zone in North Korea.

Administrative details had delayed their departure from the Kaesong complex, officials said.

'Attack rehearsals'

"Foal Eagle" involved around 10,000 US troops and their South Korean counterparts. The drills were thought to include ground, air, naval, expeditionary and special operations training exercises.

"The drill is over but the South Korean and US militaries will continue to watch out for potential provocations by the North, including a missile launch," South Korea's defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.

Timeline: Korean tensions

  • 12 Dec: North launches a rocket, claiming to have put a satellite into orbit
  • 12 Feb: North conducts underground nuclear test
  • 11 Mar: US-South Korea annual military drills begin
  • 30 Mar: North says it is entering a "state of war" with South
  • 2 Apr: North says it is restarting Yongbyon reactor
  • 3 Apr: North blocks South workers from Kaesong industrial zone, then on 9 Apr pulls its workers out
  • 10 Apr: North moves two mid-range Musudan missiles to its east coast
  • 26 Apr: Seoul announces withdrawal of all remaining South Korean workers from Kaesong

"We consider the exercise had made a great outcome. Also this training was led by South Korean military, so it was a good chance to examine South Korean army's capability," he added.

As part of the exercise, and amid a series of threats from Pyongyang, the US flew two B-2 stealth bombers, and two B-52 nuclear capable bombers, over South Korea, prompting an angry response from the North.

On Monday, North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper described the military drills as "attack rehearsals" that were "driving the situation of the Korean Peninsula to a nuclear war".

The United States Forces Korea described the annual drills as "designed to improve the alliance's readiness to defend the Republic of Korea".

Return delayed

Meanwhile, South Korea says all but seven of its workers have returned from the Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea.

The remaining workers were negotiating unpaid wages, corporate taxes and communications charges with the North, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed official.

"The entire process should not take much time, but the seven people will probably not be able to return during the day," the official said.

South Korean workers have not fully withdrawn from the zone before. Launched in 2003 to boost inter-Korean ties, Kaesong is seen as a key indicator of North-South relations.

Earlier this month, North Korea blocked South Korean workers from entering the jointly-run complex, where 123 South Korean firms are based. North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers a few days later.

On Friday, South Korea announced that it too was withdrawing all of its workers, after the North rejected its offer for talks on the zone.

Pyongyang has been angered by tightened UN sanctions imposed after its 12 February nuclear test, as well as the "Foal Eagle" drills.

In recent weeks, it has threatened to attack South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region, vowed to restart an inactive nuclear reactor and shut an emergency military hotline with South Korea.

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