Friday Sep 30, 2022
Friday Sep 30, 2022

US, South Korea to begin military drills next week


Nepalnews
AP
2022 Aug 16, 12:29, SEOUL

The United States and South Korea will begin their biggest combined military training in years next week in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which has been ramping up weapons tests and threats of nuclear conflict against Seoul and Washington, the South’s military said Tuesday.

The allies’ summertime drills, which will take place from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1 in South Korea under the name of Ulchi Freedom Shield, will include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops.

The drills underscore Washington and Seoul’s commitment to restore large-scale training after they cancelled some of their regular drills and downsized others to computer simulations in recent years to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang and because of COVID-19 concerns.

The U.S. Department of Defense also said the U.S., South Korean and Japanese navies took part in missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercises off the coast of Hawaii from Aug. 8 to 14, which it said was aimed at furthering trilateral cooperation in face of North Korean challenges.

The United States and South Korea will begin their biggest combined military training in years next week in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which has been ramping up weapons tests and threats of nuclear conflict against Seoul and Washington, the South’s military said Tuesday.

The allies’ summertime drills, which will take place from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1 in South Korea under the name of Ulchi Freedom Shield, will include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops.

The drills underscore Washington and Seoul’s commitment to restore large-scale training after they cancelled some of their regular drills and downsized others to computer simulations in recent years to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang and because of COVID-19 concerns.

The U.S. Department of Defense also said the U.S., South Korean and Japanese navies took part in missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercises off the coast of Hawaii from Aug. 8 to 14, which it said was aimed at furthering trilateral cooperation in face of North Korean challenges.

The drills, which will kick off along with a four-day South Korean civil defence training program led by government employees, will reportedly include exercises simulating joint attacks, frontline reinforcements of arms and fuel, and removals of weapons of mass destruction.

The allies will also train for drone attacks and other new warfare developments shown during Russia’s war on Ukraine and practice joint military-civilian responses to attacks on seaports, airports and major industrial facilities like semiconductor factories.

“The biggest meaning of (Ulchi Freedom Shield) is that it normalizes the South Korea-U.S. combined exercises and field training, (contributing) to the rebuilding of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and the combined defence posture,” Moon Hong-Sik, a Defense Ministry spokesperson, said during a briefing.

Some experts say North Korea may use the drills as an excuse to stir up tensions.

The North has already warned of a “deadly” retaliation against South Korea over its COVID-19 outbreak it dubiously claims was caused by anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other objects flying across the border by balloons launched by southern activists. There are concerns that the North Korean threat, issued last week by the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, portends a provocation, which may include a nuclear or major missile test or even border skirmishes.

In an interview with Associated Press Television last month, Choe Jin, deputy director of a think tank run by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry, said the United States and South Korea would face “unprecedented” security challenges if they don’t drop their hostile military pressure campaign against the North, including joint military drills.

Kim Jun-rak, the spokesperson of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the South Korean and U.S. militaries were maintaining a close watch on North Korean military activities and facilities.

Animosity has built up on the Korean Peninsula since U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations derailed in early 2019 over exchanging the release of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against the North and the North’s disarmament steps.

Kim Jong Un has since declared to bolster his nuclear deterrent in face of “gangster-like” U.S. pressure and halted all cooperation with the South. Exploiting a division in the U.N. Security Council over Russia’s war on Ukraine, North Korea has dialled up weapons testing to a record pace this year, conducting more than 30 ballistic launches. They have included the country’s first demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missile technology since 2017 and further tests of tactical systems designed to be armed with small battlefield nukes.

Kim has punctuated his testing binge with repeated warnings that the North would proactively use its nuclear weapons in conflicts with South Korea and the United States, which experts say indicate an escalatory nuclear doctrine that could cause greater concerns for its neighbours.

South Korea and U.S. officials say North Korea is also gearing up for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have developed a thermonuclear warhead to fit on its ICBMs.

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