South Korea and the U.S. commenced expansive military exercises on the Korean peninsula following a recent trilateral summit with Japan focused on strengthening security collaboration.
These developments come as North Korea announces a new missile test.
Dubbed “Ulchi Freedom Shield”, the exercises are set to run until the end of the month, with the Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) noting they feature over thirty large-scale war simulations, surpassing previous years.
Historically, Pyongyang has criticized such drills as a rehearsal for invasion.
Coinciding with the start of these drills, North Korean media reported a visit by leader Kim Jong-un to oversee a cruise missile test from a warship.
The core aim of these yearly drills is to enhance the coordination and readiness of South Korean and U.S. troops, given North Korea’s increasing military advances and the escalating tensions in the region.
A JCS spokesperson emphasized that the exercises are designed to bolster the alliance’s defense stance and prepare for diverse threats.
This year’s program involves tactics for a swift transition to wartime positions and counteracting misinformation spread by Pyongyang.
Besides South Korean and U.S. troops, military personnel from nine countries associated with the United Nations Command are also participating, including Australia, Canada, France, the U.K., Greece, Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Australia.
An aerospace unit from the U.S. troop contingent in Korea is also involved.
A nationwide civil drill is scheduled for Wednesday, sounding a siren for 20 minutes, prompting South Koreans to take shelter, preparing them for a potential military assault.
A few dozen people protested in Seoul against these joint drills and the U.S.’s extended deterrence, arguing that it exacerbates regional tensions with North Korea.
The drills follow a security agreement reached last Friday at Camp David among the U.S., Japanese, and South Korean leaders, aiming to deepen military cooperation against Pyongyang and Beijing’s military rise.
The leaders agreed on joint military exercises covering all forces’ areas and a real-time information exchange pact for ballistic missile interception.
Intelligence services in Seoul have warned about North Korea’s preparations for new missile launches.
The same day, North Korean state media reported Kim Jong-un’s visit to monitor troops’ combat readiness and a cruise missile test, with him underscoring the urgency to boost weapon production, including strategic missiles, to deter potential adversaries.