SEOUL (AFP) - The United States and South Korea announced plans Thursday for major annual joint military exercises as regional tensions run high following North Korea’s third nuclear test. A joint air, ground and naval field training exercise known as Foal Eagle will be held from March 1 to April 30. Separately, US and South Korean troops will stage a computer-simulated drill named Key Resolve from March 11-21.

Pyongyang habitually denounces the joint drills as a rehearsal for invasion. Seoul and Washington insist the manoeuvres are defensive in nature. “The exercises are designed to enhance the security and readiness of (South Korea) and are deterrent in nature,” they said in a statement.