US, South Korea begin scaled-back military drill amid Covid-19 spike
Seoul, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- The United States and South Korea began their joint military exercises on Tuesday amid a coronavirus outbreak that has forced the two allies to scale back the annual defense drills this year.
North Korea, which usually opposes these maneuvers, has not yet spoken on the military training and preparedness program so far.
The so-called combined command post training, which involves computer simulations, has fewer participants this year because many US troops have not been able to travel to South Korea due to the pandemic, a South Korean defense ministry spokesperson told EFE.
The drill was originally scheduled to begin on Aug. 16 but it had to be delayed by two days because a South Korean official who was to take part in them tested positive for Covid-19.
All his military contacts have tested negative for the virus and been quarantined, according to the spokesperson.
The first phase of the CCPT will be held until Aug. 22 and will focus on simulating a joint response to a possible North Korean invasion.
The second part of the exercise will be conducted from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28 and will simulate a counterattack against North Korean troops.
The CCPT is the first major joint military exercise this year of the two allies, who were already forced to cancel their spring maneuvers due to the pandemic.
All eyes are on North Korea to see how it will react to the program as it criticizes the annual drills as a rehearsal to invade its territory and usually responds with missile launches.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula had escalated in June after Pyongyang destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office on its territory.
However, since then, the hermetic regime has softened its tone and is yet to comment on the US-South Korea joint military drills.
The North Korean army is also currently conducting its summer drills, apparently also on a reduced scale due to Covid-19. EFE-EPA