It was announced on Tuesday by the South Korean military that the United States and South Korea will begin their largest combined military training in years the following week. This is in response to an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which has been increasing the number of weapons tests it conducts as well as its threats of nuclear conflict against Seoul and Washington.
Field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks, and potentially tens of thousands of troops will be a part of the summertime drills that the allies will be conducting in South Korea from August 22 to September 1. These drills will be held under the name Ulchi Freedom Shield and will take place from August 22 to September 1.
The drills highlight Washington and Seoul’s commitment to restoring large-scale training after they cancelled some of their regular drills and downsized others to computer simulations in recent years to make space for diplomacy with Pyongyang and because of concerns regarding COVID-19. In recent years, Washington and Seoul cancelled some of their regular drills and downsized others to computer simulations in order to make space for diplomacy with Pyongyang.
The United States Department of Defense stated that the United States Navy, the Navy of South Korea, and the Navy of Japan participated in missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercises off the coast of Hawaii from August 8 through August 14. The Department of Defense stated that the purpose of these exercises was to further trilateral cooperation in the face of challenges posed by North Korea.
While the United States and South Korea describe their drills as defensive, North Korea views all allied trainings as invasion rehearsals and has used them to justify its development of nuclear weapons and missiles. Although the United States and South Korea describe their drills as defensive, Ulchi Freedom Shield will almost certainly draw an angry reaction from North Korea.
The United States and South Korea used to do large-scale joint exercises in South Korea every spring and summer until the drills were cancelled or scaled back. The spring ones had been emphasised by live-fire exercises using a wide spectrum of land, air, and naval forces, and they typically engaged around 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean personnel.
Tens of thousands of allied soldiers had participated in the summers exercises, which had mostly consisted of computer simulations to refine collaborative decision making and planning. Despite this, South Korea’s military has placed an emphasis on the reintroduction of large-scale field training this time.
The amount of United States and South Korean soldiers that would be involved in Ulchi Freedom Guardian Shield was not commented on by officials at Seoul’s Defense Ministry or its Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The North Korean government has previously threatened South Korea with “deadly” reprisal for the COVID-19 outbreak, which it dubiously alleges was caused by anti-Pyongyang propaganda pamphlets and other items that were carried over the border by balloons released by southern activists.
According to the spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kim Jun-rak, both the South Korean and American forces are keeping a careful eye on the military actions and installations of the North Korean government.
Anger has been building up on the Korean Peninsula ever since nuclear discussions between the United States and North Korea broke down in early 2019 over the issue of swapping the removal of crushing sanctions spearheaded by the United States against the North and the North’s disarmament efforts.
Since then, Kim Jong Un has said that he would strengthen his nuclear deterrence in response to the “gangster-like” pressure from the United States, and he has ceased any cooperation with the South. This year, North Korea has increased its rate of weapons testing to a record pace, carrying out more than 30 missile launches. It has done so by taking advantage of the fact that the United Nations Security Council is split over Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
Experts believe that Kim’s testing spree is indicative of an escalating nuclear doctrine that could cause greater concern for North Korea’s neighbours.
Officials in South Korea and the United States believe that North Korea is preparing for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it said that it had created a thermonuclear bomb that could be mounted on its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).