Conflicts & War

Seoul, Washington launch largest ever live-fire drills amid North Korea tensions

Pocheon, South Korea, May 25 (EFE).- South Korea and the United States on Thursday began their largest-ever live fire military drills to commemorate 70 years of bilateral defense ties.

The exercises are being held in Ponchon, just 25 kilometers from the border with North Korea, amid heightened tensions on the peninsula over the North’s nuclear weapons program and large military deployments by Seoul and Washington.

Before the start of the drills, several videos of the South Korean Armed Forces accompanied by military songs and footage of the latest North Korean missile tests and of leader Kim Jong-un checking tactical nuclear warheads that could be used against the South were shown to the hundreds of guests in attendance.

A range of military equipment, from radar systems to Taurus air-to-surface cruise missiles, were also on display to demonstrate the ample resources South Korea and the US have at their disposal.

This was the largest deployment – 2,500 troops from three different corps and some 600 military assets were mobilized for the inaugural maneuvers – for live-fire exercises to date in South Korea, where only 10 drills have been held since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The last time was in 2017 when Kim Jong-un and then US president Donald Trump were exchanging threats before engaging in a round of denuclearization summits that ended in failure.

These exercises will be held on four other dates next month to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the agreement under which Washington – which has 28,500 troops stationed on South Korean soil – pledges to defend Seoul from a possible North Korean attack.

Thursday’s exercise simulated both a North Korean offensive using long-range artillery along the border and a counter attacking operation.

“I think this sends a message to the whole world about the strength of the alliance,” said US Capt. Anthony Lopez, in command of an artillery battery, when asked what kind of message these exercises send to Pyongyang, which earlier on Thursday called the drill a “dangerous war game” directed against “a nuclear power.”

Following Pyongyang’s continued weapons tests and the announcement that it possesses short-range nuclear warheads that could be used against South Korean territory, US president Joe Biden recently promised to strengthen the so-called extended deterrence, Washington’s commitment to defend Seoul with all the resources at its disposal, including its nuclear arsenal. EFE


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