In response to a North Korea that has been stepping up its weapons tests and making nuclear war threats against Seoul and Washington, the United States and South Korea will start their most extensive joint military training in years next week, according to the South’s military.
The Ulchi Freedom Shield summer drills, which will take place in South Korea from August 22 to September 1, will involve field exercises including planes, vessels, tanks, and possibly tens of thousands of soldiers.
The exercises demonstrate Washington’s and Seoul’s will to resume extensive training after some of their regular exercises were canceled and others were reduced to computer simulations in recent years to allow for negotiation with Pyongyang and due to COVID-19 concerns.
The U.S. Department of Defense also claimed that from August 8 to August 14, the U.S., South Korean, and Japanese navies participated in drills for missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking off the coast of Hawaii. The drills, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, were meant to strengthen trilateral cooperation in the face of North Korean challenges.
Ulchi Freedom Shield will almost certainly provoke a hostile response from North Korea, which describes all allied training as invasion rehearsals and has used them to justify its nuclear weapons and missile development, despite the fact that the United States and South Korea describe their exercises as defensive.
Major joint exercises between the United States and South Korea were staged there every spring and summer before they were cancelled or scaled back. The ones in the spring had featured live-fire drills that used a variety of land, air, and sea forces and typically involved roughly 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops.
Although South Korea’s military has stressed the reintroduction of extensive field training this time, tens of thousands of allied forces had participated in the summertime drills, which had mostly comprised of computer simulations to sharpen cooperative decision-making and planning.
Officials from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Ministry declined to disclose on how many American and South Korean troops will be taking part in Ulchi Freedom Guardian Shield.
The exercises will allegedly involve simulations of joint attacks, frontline reinforcements of weaponry and fuel, and removals of weapons of mass destruction. They will begin concurrently with a four-day civil defense training session in South Korea run by government personnel.
The allies will also rehearse cooperative military-civilian reactions to attacks on seaports, airports, and important industrial sites like semiconductor manufacturing. They will also train for drone strikes and other modern warfare innovations demonstrated during Russia’s conflict on Ukraine.
The main benefit of Ulchi Freedom Shield, according to a Defense Ministry spokesperson named Moon Hong-sik, is that it normalizes joint training exercises and exercises involving both South Korea and the United States. This helps to strengthen the alliance between the two countries and the combined defense posture.
According to some observers, North Korea may exploit the drills as a pretext to raise tensions.
The North has previously threatened South Korea with a “deadly” response to the COVID-19 outbreak, which it erroneously says was brought on by anti-Pyongyang pamphlets and other items that were floated across the border by balloons released by southern activists. There are worries that the threat made by North Korea’s strongwoman leader Kim Jong Un last week portends a provocation that might involve a nuclear or significant missile test or possibly border hostilities.
Choe Jin, the deputy director of a think tank run by Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, claimed last month in an interview with Associated Press Television that if the United States and South Korea don’t stop their hostile military pressure campaign against the North, including joint military drills, they will face “unprecedented” security challenges.
The South Korean and American forces are keeping a careful eye on North Korean military actions and installations, according to Kim Jun-rak, spokeswoman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Since the collapse of U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks in early 2019, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen due to the North’s actions toward disarmament and the easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions against it.
Since then, Kim Jong Un has renounced any collaboration with the South and sworn to strengthen his nuclear deterrence in response to “gangster-like” American pressure. North Korea has increased its pace of weapons testing to a new level this year, executing more than 30 missile launches, taking advantage of a rift in the U.N. Security Council over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They have included new testing of tactical weapons made to be equipped with tiny battlefield nukes as well as the nation’s first intercontinental ballistic missile technology demonstrations since 2017.
North Korea is reportedly preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it asserted to have created a thermonuclear warhead that would fit on its ICBMs, according to authorities in South Korea and the United States.
Source: Boston Globe