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U.S. and South Korea to hold military drills despite protest from Pyongyang

SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea will hold their annual joint military drills from February 24 to April 18, the combined forces command that oversees the allies said on Monday, and Pyongyang had been notified of the plan.

The announcement comes after a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber sortie last week prompted angry reactions from North Korea, which threatened to reconsider plans for reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

"The United Nations Command has informed the Korean People's Army in North Korea through their Panmunjom mission about both Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise dates and the non-provocative nature of this training," the command said in a statement.

North Korea has rescinded a recent invitation to U.S. special envoy Robert King to discuss the release of imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae for the second time after it withdrew King's planned trip in August.

It was not clear whether the latest withdrawal of the invitation was the result of the decision by the United States and South Korea to go ahead with the drills.

North Korea has called for the cancellation of the drills, describing them as a prelude to war and warning the exercise could imperil the family reunion plan.

Last year, North Korea threatened nuclear attacks against the United States and its allies at the height of tensions coinciding with the U.S. and South Korean drills.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Paul Tait)

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