South Korea and US troops are holding a massive live-fire exercise near the North Korean border
Seoul, South Korea — South Korean and US militaries prepared for a massive live-fire exercise near the North Korean border on Thursday, despite North Korea’s warning that it would not tolerate a hostile invasion test on its doorstep.
Thursday’s exercise, the first of five rounds of firefights between the allies until mid-June, marks the 70th anniversary of the military alliance between Seoul and Washington. North Korea has typically responded to such large South Korean-U.S. exercises with missile and other weapons tests.
North Korea has fired more than 100 missiles since the start of 2022, but none since it launched a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in mid-April. North Korea has argued that the rapid pace of tests was a response to expanded military exercises between the United States and South Korea, but observers say the North is aiming to advance weapons development and then extract greater diplomatic concessions from its rivals.
The U.S.-South Korea live-fire drills, known as “combined annihilation firepower exercises,” would be the largest of their kind. The exercises have been held 11 times since they began in 1977, according to South Korea’s defense ministry.
Department officials said this year’s drills will involve advanced stealth fighter jets, attack helicopters, multiple missile launch systems and other weapons from South Korea and the United States. It was not yet known how many soldiers will take part in the exercises, but the previous exercises in 2017 involved about 2,000 soldiers and 250 weapons from both countries.
According to a previous announcement by the Ministry of Defense, the purpose of the exercises is to enhance the combined operational capabilities of the allies. He said South Korea and the United States would seek to develop “overwhelming deterrence and response capabilities” to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
Last Friday, North Korean state media described the drills as a “typical war test for North Korean targets.” According to the statement, North Korea “cannot but take more seriously the fact that” the exercises are being held in an area a few kilometers from its border.
According to KCNA, the US and South Korea face unspecified “appropriate responses” to the series of large-scale provocative exercises.
Earlier this year, the South Korean and US militaries conducted their largest military exercise in five years. The United States also sent the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and nuclear bombers for joint exercises with South Korea.
At their summit last month, US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced steps to strengthen their deterrence capabilities, such as the periodic docking of US nuclear submarines in South Korea; reinforcement of joint training exercises; and the creation of a new nuclear advisory group. Biden also issued a stark warning that a North Korean nuclear attack on the United States or its allies “will result in the end of any regime” that takes such action.
Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, later said the Biden-Yoon summit revealed the two countries’ “most hostile and aggressive will to act” against the North. He threatened to further strengthen his country’s escalating nuclear doctrine, saying: “The dream of the United States and South Korea will now face a stronger force.”
Concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program have increased after North Korea enacted a law last year authorizing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons. According to many foreign experts, North Korea does not yet have operational nuclear missiles.
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