South Korean and US forces ready to start large-scale live-fire exercise near border North Korea on Thursday, despite the North’s warning that it would not tolerate such hostile invasion drills on its doorstep.
Thursday’s exercise, five rounds of firing drills by the Allies through mid-June, marks 70 years since the establishment of the military alliance soul and Washington. North Korea has typically reacted to such major South Korean–US exercises with missile and other weapons tests.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 missile tests, but none since it fired a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in mid-April. North Korea has argued that its rapid pace of tests was a response to expanded military exercises between the US and South Korea, but observers say the North aims to advance its weapons development, then eventually engage in diplomacy. To get more concessions from your competitors.
The US-South Korean firing exercise, dubbed the “Joint Destruction Firepower Exercise”, will be the largest of its kind. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the exercise has been held 11 times since it began in 1977.
Ministry officials said this year’s drills featured advanced stealth fighter jets from South Korea and the United States, attack helicopters, multiple rocket launch systems and other weapons. It was not immediately known how many troops would participate in the exercise, but the previous exercises in 2017 had about 2,000 soldiers and 250 weapons assets from both countries.
An earlier statement by the Defense Ministry said the exercises are meant to enhance joint operational demonstration capabilities of the allies. It said South Korea and the United States would seek to establish “overwhelming deterrence and response capabilities” to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
Last Friday, North Korea’s state media called the exercise “a typical North Korea-targeted war rehearsal”. It said North Korea “could not take more seriously the fact” that the exercise would be held in an area a few kilometers (miles) from its border.
KCNA said the US and South Korea would face unspecified “respective reactions” over their series of large-scale provocative drills.
Earlier this year, South Korean and US armies held their largest field exercise in five years. The US also sent the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and nuclear-capable bombers to 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 periodic docking of US nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea; strengthening joint training exercises; and the establishment of a new Nuclear Advisory Group. Biden also issued a stark warning that any North Korean nuclear strike on the US or its allies would result in “any regime” taking such action.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, later said the Biden-Unon summit agreement revealed the two countries’ “most hostile and aggressive actions” against the North. He threatened to further strengthen his country’s growing nuclear doctrine, saying “the pipe dream of the US and South Korea will be confronted with an entity of much more powerful force.”
Concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program grew when last year North Korea enacted a law that authorizes the retroactive use of nuclear weapons. Many foreign experts say that North Korea does not yet have active nuclear missiles.
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