The US and South Korea will begin expanded military exercises next week

SEOUL – The United States and South Korea will begin their largest combined military training in years next week in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea, which has stepped up weapons testing and weapons testing threats of nuclear conflict against Seoul and Washington, the southern military announced on Tuesday.

The Allied summer exercises, dubbed the Ulchi Freedom Shield in South Korea from August 22 to September 1, will include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops.

The exercises underscore Washington’s and Seoul’s commitment to resume large-scale training thereafter have canceled some of their regular practices and others downsized to computer simulations in recent years to make room for diplomacy with Pyongyang and due to COVID-19 concerns.

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The US Department of Defense also said the navies of the US, South Korea and Japan participated in missile warning and ballistic missile search-and-track exercises off the coast of Hawaii from Aug. 8 to 14, aimed at putting trilateral cooperation in the face promote the North Korean challenges.

While the United States and South Korea describe their drills as defensive, Ulchi Freedom Shield will almost certainly evoke an angry reaction from North Korea, which has labeled all Allied training as invasion drills and used them to justify its own Development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

Before being deferred or downsized, the US and South Korea held major joint exercises in South Korea every spring and summer. The spring drills had been highlighted by live-fire exercises involving a wide range of land, air and sea resources and typically involving around 10,000 American and 200,000 Korean troops.

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Tens of thousands of allied troops had taken part in the summer exercises, which consisted mostly of computer simulations to improve joint decision-making and planning, although this time the South Korean military has emphasized the revival of large-scale field training.

Officials from the Seoul Department of Defense and its joint chiefs of staff did not comment on the number of US and South Korean troops who would participate in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian Shield.

The drills, which will begin alongside a four-day South Korean civil defense training program led by government officials, will reportedly include drills simulating joint strikes, front-line weapon and fuel reinforcements and the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction.

The allies will also train for drone strikes and other new warfare developments demonstrated during Russia’s war against Ukraine, and will practice joint military-civilian responses to attacks on seaports, airports and large industrial facilities such as semiconductor factories.

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“The greatest significance of (Ulchi Freedom Shield) is that it normalizes the combined South Korea-US exercises and field training, (contributes to) the rebuilding of the South Korea-US alliance and joint defense posture,” Moon Hong- sik, a Defense Department spokesman said during a briefing.

Some experts say North Korea could use the drills as an excuse to stoke tensions.

The North has already warned of a “deadly” retaliation against South Korea COVID-19 outbreak is dubious claimed was caused by anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other items flown over the border Balloons launched by Southern activists. There are concerns that the North Korean threat made by leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister last week points to a provocation that could include a nuclear or large-scale missile test or even border skirmishes.

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in a (n Interview with Associated Press Television Last month, Choe Jin, deputy director of a think tank at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, said the United States and South Korea would face “unprecedented” security challenges unless they halt their hostile military pressure campaign against the north, including joint military drills.

Kim Jun-rak, spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the South Korean and US military are closely monitoring North Korea’s military activities and facilities.

Hostility has been building on the Korean Peninsula since the collapse of US-North Korea nuclear talks in early 2019 over the exchange of lifting crippling US-led sanctions on the North and North’s disarmament moves.

Kim Jong Un has since said he would step up his nuclear deterrent in the face of “gangster-like” US pressure and halted all cooperation with the South. Exploiting a split in the UN Security Council over Russia’s war on Ukraine, North Korea has conducted weapons tests at a record pace this year and made more than 30 ballistic launches. These included the country’s first demonstrations of ICBM technology since 2017 and further tests of tactical systems designed for arming small nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

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Kim has punctuated his testing session with repeated warnings that the North would proactively use its nuclear weapons in conflicts with South Korea and the United States, which experts say point to an escalating nuclear doctrine that could be of greater concern to neighbors.

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

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/08/16/us-south-korea-to-begin-expanded-military-drills-next-week/ The US and South Korea will begin expanded military exercises next week

Sarah Y. Kim

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