US and South Korean troops staged a big amphibious landing exercise on Saturday, storming simulated North Korean beach defenses amid heightened tension and threats by the North to annihilate its enemies.
The landing and assault drills on South Korea's east coast were part of eight weeks of joint exercises between the allies which the South has said are the largest ever. The North has denounced the exercises as "nuclear war moves" and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive.
Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high since the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a long-range rocket launch last month, triggering new UN sanctions.
About 55 US marine aircraft and 30 US and South Korean ships, including the USS Bonhomme Richard and USS Boxer, which carry AV-8B Harrier attack jets and V-22 Osprey aircrafts, took part in the assault on beaches near Pohang city, the US navy said.
"They will penetrate notional enemy beach defenses, establish a beach head, and rapidly transition forces and sustainment ashore," the US military based in South Korea said in a statement before the exercise.
The North's military said it was prepared to counter the US and South Korean forces "with an ultra-precision blitzkrieg strike of the Korean style."
"The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK holding tightly the arms to annihilate the enemies with towering hatred for them are waiting for the dignified Supreme Command to issue an order to launch a preemptive strike of justice," it said in comments carried by the state KCNA news agency.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.