The drills will focus on “realistic scenarios” in light of North Korean nuclear and missile threats, Seoul said.
The South Korean and U.S. armies will hold about 20 joint military exercises in the first half of next year, Seoul said on Wednesday, amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The announcement by South Korea’s Defense Ministry follows a biannual meeting between the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup.
The decision has been made “to expand the scale and types of combined field exercises”, the ministry said in a statement. During these war games, the parties will focus on “developing realistic training scenarios in light of advancing North Korean nuclear and missile threats”, he added.
Seoul intends to deal with the nuclear threat from Pyongyang based on Washington’s commitment to mobilize all its military capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend its ally, Lee said, according to the statement.
As for the possibility of a conflict involving conventional weapons, the minister insisted that the South Korean army must “to ensure that we can respond sternly and perfectly to any North Korean provocation” and be able to achieve “definitive victory in any fight.
On Thursday, Seoul revealed that South Korea and the United States plan to hold their first joint large-scale live-fire demonstration in six years in 2023.
The exercises could be one of the ways to mark the 70th anniversary of the launch of military cooperation between South Korea and the United States next year, and also “presenting the presence of our army and the overwhelming deterrence capabilities of the alliance against North Korea”, Defense Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha-gyu noted.
North Korea has repeatedly condemned military exercises between the South and the United States, calling them a threat to its national security and preparation for an attack.
Last month, Pyongyang staged a major aerial exercise between its arch-rivals as “aggressive warfare exercise aimed primarily at hitting North Korea’s strategic targets.” According to the country’s foreign ministry, the North was eager to defend its sovereignty and could offer “stronger follow-up measures” if the United States “continually persists in serious military provocations”.
War games were drastically reduced under former 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, said a “peace through strength” policy, which is based, among other things, on the strengthening of military ties with the United States.
North Korea rejects ‘absurd’ claim
Pyongyang has fired an unprecedented number of missiles this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are believed to be able to strike the American mainland. According to CNN estimates, there were at least 35 tests during the period.
Officials in Seoul and Washington said North Korea had also completed preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.
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