updated 3/10/2006 4:50:16 PM ET 2006-03-10T21:50:16

The United States and South Korea plan to conduct annual joint military exercises this month, the U.S. military command said Friday.

The exercises, dubbed RSOI and Foal Eagle, will involve 20,000 American troops and an undisclosed number of South Korean soldiers and will run for a week starting March 25, said Kim Yong-kyu, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Seoul.

U.S. officials have said the exercises, involving land, sea and air forces, are designed to improve U.S. and South Korean forces’ defense capabilities.

North Korea routinely condemns joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, calling them preparations to invade the communist state.

Last month, the North criticized such exercises as part of “U.S. moves to start a war of aggression against the North.”

About 29,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war. The number of American troops are set to decline to 25,000 by 2008 as part of the Pentagon’s worldwide realignment of its forces.

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