South Korea and the United States (US) began their largest joint military exercise in years as they resumed field exercises on Monday, officials said. Allies seek to increase preparedness for possible North Korean weapons tests.
The annual summer drills, known this year as the Ulchi Freedom Shield, will end on September 1 and come after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, pledged to “normalize” joint exercises and increase deterrence against North Korea.
South Korea separately launched four-day Ulchi civil defense exercises designed to boost government preparedness for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The military and civilian exercises aim to improve the nation’s readiness to meet changing modes of warfare, creating cyber threats against critical facilities. Chives and supply chains, said Yoon.
“Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula is built into our air-tight security posture,” Yoon told a cabinet meeting, calling for full-scale exercises based on real-world scenarios.
The drills are the largest since 2017 due to Covid-19 and Yun’s stance on resuming talks with his predecessor, Pyongyang.
North Korea last week fired two cruise missiles off its west coast after South Korea and the United States began preliminary exercises for the drills.
North Korea has conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year and is ready to conduct a seventh nuclear test at any time, officials in Seoul have said.
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