By Paul Purcell
New Zealand troops are set to become the third head of a large-scale "twin dragons" training exercise with American and Republic of Korea soldiers in South Korea.
Around 60 New Zealand Defence Force personnel will head to South Korea to take part in the 16th annual Exercise Ssang Yong, meaning twin dragons, from February 24 to March 12.
Gunners from the New Zealand Army's 16 Field Regiment will participate in complex exercises that will includes mortar firing and a beach landing in Pohang on South Korea's east coast.
Australian Defence Force troops have also been invited to take part.
It's the first time New Zealand troops will take part in the military exercises which in previous years have involved upwards of 10,000 soldiers along with amphibious ships and air support.
South Korea's northern neighbour, the politically-isolated Democratic People's Republic of Korea, are largely critical of the exercises which they view as invasion rehearsals.
The drills trigger a surge in military tensions between the two Koreas, with North Korea firing seven surface-to-air missiles along with six short-range missiles into the sea in protest last year.
UN resolutions ban any ballistic missile tests by North Korea.
The exercise is part of 16 Field Regiment's ongoing co-operation with the US Marine Corps 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, designed to develop the New Zealand Army's capability in specialised military skills according to Major General Tim Gall.
"Opportunities to train and engage with other militaries are invaluable," he said.
"Exercises such as SY16 also enable the New Zealand Army to maintain its ability to operate alongside other militaries and improve its effectiveness in all types of terrain and environment."
New Zealand are set to host South Korean troops for exercises in mid-August as part of the scheme where each unit holds a training event during the year, but American forces will not be participating.