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South Korea and US to increase number of joint military drills

The exercises will focus on “realistic scenarios” in light of North Korean nuclear and missile threats, Seoul says

The South Korean and US militaries will hold some 20 joint military drills in the first half of next year, Seoul announced on Wednesday, amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The announcement by South Korea’s Defense Ministry followed a biannual meeting between the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup.

The decision was made “to expand the scale and types of combined field drills,” the ministry said in a statement. During those war games, the sides will focus on “crafting of realistic training scenarios in light of advancing North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” it added.

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Seoul intends to deal with the nuclear threat from Pyongyang based on Washington’s commitment to mobilizing all its military capabilities, including nuclear arms, to defend its ally, Lee said, according to the statement.

As for the possibility of a conflict involving conventional arms, the minister insisted that the South Korean military must “ensure that we can respond sternly and perfectly to any North Korean provocations” and be able to achieve “definite win in any combat.”

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FILE PHOTO: A North Korean ballistic missile at Pyongyang International Airport, November 2022.
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On Thursday, Seoul revealed that South Korea and the US were considering staging their first large-scale joint live-fire demonstration in six years in 2023.

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The exercises could be one of the ways to mark the next year’s 70th anniversary of the launch of military cooperation between South Korea and the US, and also “showcase our military’s presence and the alliance’s overwhelming deterrence capabilities against North Korea,” Defense Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha-gyu noted.

North Korea has repeatedly condemned military exercises between the South and the US, calling them a threat to its national security and preparations for an attack.

Last month, Pyongyang blasted a major air exercise between its arch-rivals as a “war drill for aggression mainly aimed at striking the strategic targets of North Korea.” According to the country’s Foreign Ministry, the North was eager to defend its sovereignty and could come up with “more powerful follow-up measures” if the US “continuously persists in the grave military provocations.”

The war games were scaled back significantly under previous South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as part of his efforts to seek reconciliation with Pyongyang. However, his successor Yoon Suk Yeol, who came to power in May, has declared a “peace through strength” policy, which among other things is based on further boosting military ties with the US.

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READ MORE: North Korea rejects ‘absurd’ claim

Pyongyang has fired an unprecedented number of missiles this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), said to be able to strike the US mainland. According to CNN’s estimates, there have been at least 35 tests during the period.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have claimed that North Korea has also completed preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.

December 23, 2022 at 07:44PM
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