Australian troops join S. Korea-US landing drill

SEOUL (AFP) - Australian combat troops have for the first time taken part in annual South Korea-US joint military drills, a South Korean defense ministry spokesman said Saturday.

The 18-member army unit joined a landing drill held near the southeastern city of Pohang as part of the Foal Eagle US-South Korea joint military exercise, the spokesman said.

Australia is a member of the 16-nation United Nations Command, and fought alongside South Korea during the Korean War against North Korea and China.

Australian casualties in the 1950-53 war numbered more than 1,500, of whom 340 were killed, according to the Australian War Memorial's official website.

Participation in the recent drill marked the first time combat troops from a United Nations Command member state had joined a US-South Korea joint exercise since the Korean War, the spokesman said.

The inclusion of Australian troops followed a request from Canberra "to gain experience in joint military exercises", he added.

The month-long exercises started on April 5 involving 3,000 South Korean and US marines.

The Korean peninsula has been in a state of heightened military tension since North Korea carried out its third nuclear test in February.

Incensed by fresh UN sanctions and joint South Korea-US military exercises, Pyongyang has spent weeks issuing blistering threats of missile strikes and nuclear war.

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