DATE=8/16/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=S. KOREA - U-S MILITARY EXERCISE NUMBER=2-252820 BYLINE=HYUN SUNG KHANG DATELINE=SEOUL CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The United States and South Korea have begun twelve days of joint military exercises which they describe as an effective deterrent to external aggression. The operation comes amid concerns that neighboring North Korea may be preparing to test fire a long-range missile. As Hyun-Sung Khang reports from the South Korean capital, Seoul, the reclusive North has already denounced the joint exercise. TEXT: The military exercises are an annual event between South Korea and the United States, but North Korea accuses the allies of belligerence in going ahead with them. A "war gamble" is how one influential Pyongyang government body described them. The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, went on to say that the military operation demonstrates that no one can predict when Washington and Seoul will unleash a total war on the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang also warns that the exercise will hurt relations with the South. But a spokeswoman for the U-S military command in Seoul says the 25th annual drill is no more than a routine defensive training exercise. The joint operation, named Ulchi Focus Lens, is one of the largest annual military exercises conducted by the United States. It involves 14-thousand U-S soldiers stationed in South Korea, and almost five and a half thousand more from the U-S mainland, Japan and Guam -- along with 56 thousand South Korean troops. The operation largely involves computer simulations designed to evaluate and improve joint contingency operations. At the center of the exercise is the U-S- S Blue Ridge, a command vessel, which will lead an unspecified number of warships. The exercises come amid rising concern within the region that North Korea may be preparing to test fire a second long-range missile, which could have the capacity to strike Hawaii or Alaska. The North's launch of a multi-stage missile, a year ago, shocked the region. The United States, Japan and South Korea have warned of economic and diplomatic sanctions should North Korea go ahead with a new launch. But Pyongyang has consistently maintained it has the sovereign right to test fire a missile should it so choose. NEB/HSK/FC/PLM 16-Aug-1999 03:44 AM EDT (16-Aug-1999 0744 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .