T.he Faced with an increasingly aggressive North Korea, the United States and South Korea are set to begin next week’s biggest joint military drills in years, the South Korean military said yesterday.

The Allied summer exercises, dubbed Ulchi Freedom Shield, will take place in South Korea from 22 August to 1 September and include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops. increase.

To make room for diplomacy with North Korea, and because of COVID-19 concerns, Washington and Seoul have in recent years canceled some of their regular exercises and reduced others to computer simulations. The exercise underscores Washington’s and Seoul’s commitment to resuming large-scale exercises.

The Pentagon also said the U.S., South Korean and Japanese navies participated in a missile warning and ballistic missile search and track exercise off Hawaii from Aug. 8 to 14. facing the North Korean challenge.

While the United States and South Korea describe the exercises as defensive, the Ulchi Freedom Shield will almost certainly elicit an angry response from North Korea.

China, a major ally of North Korea, has expressed concern over the expansion of US military exercises with its Asian allies, saying it could exacerbate tensions with North Korea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, when asked in Hawaii whether the Chinese government believed the trilateral joint exercises were directed against China in any way, gave specifics. No response was received.

At a press conference in Beijing yesterday, Wang said North Korea had “repeatedly expressed its concerns” about the joint exercises.

“The negative impact of military exercises on the situation on the Korean Peninsula is noteworthy. All parties must act with caution and stop actions that may increase tensions and confrontations and undermine mutual trust,” he said. Told.

Before being shelved or scaled back, the United States and South Korea held large joint exercises in South Korea each spring and summer. Spring supplies were highlighted by live-fire exercises involving a wide range of land, air and sea assets, typically involving about 10,000 American troops and her 200,000 South Korean troops.

The South Korean military has emphasized the revival of large-scale field training this time around, but tens of thousands of allied forces participated in the summer training.

Officials at the Defense Ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul declined to comment on the number of US and South Korean troops participating in the Ulchi Freedom Shield.

The training, which will begin alongside a four-day South Korean civil defense training program led by government officials, will include exercises simulating joint attacks, strengthening front lines of weapons and fuel, and removing weapons of mass destruction. It is reported.

The allies will also train on drone attacks and other new developments in the war illustrated during Russia’s war against Ukraine, and develop a joint military-civilian response to attacks on key industrial facilities such as ports, airports and semiconductor factories. practice.

Moon Hong-sik said, “The most important meaning of[Ulchi Freedom Shield]is to normalize South Korea-US joint exercises and field exercises and[contribute]to rebuilding the South Korea-US alliance and joint defense posture.” A defense ministry spokesman said at a press conference.

Some experts say North Korea could use the drills as an excuse to escalate tensions.

North Korea vows ‘lethal’ retaliation against South Korea over COVID-19 outbreak suspected to have been caused by anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets and other objects flown across border by balloons launched by South activists are warning you. There are concerns that North Korea’s threats, uttered last week by Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, portend provocations that could include nuclear and missile tests and even border skirmishes.

In an interview with Associated Press television last month, Choi Jin, deputy director of a think tank run by North Korea’s foreign ministry, said the United States and South Korea would face an “unprecedented” security crisis if hostile military pressure were not dropped. He said he would face challenges. Campaign against North Korea, including joint military exercises.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Kim Jun-rak said South Korean and US forces are closely monitoring North Korean military activities and installations.

Hostility has increased on the Korean Peninsula since US-North Korea nuclear talks fell through in early 2019. This is due to disagreements over the easing of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for disarmament measures.

Kim Jong-un has since declared that North Korea would step up its nuclear deterrent in the face of “mob-like” US pressure and suspended all cooperation with South Korea. It has used a split in the United Nations Security Council over . This included testing the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 and a tactical system designed to be armed with small battlefield nuclear weapons.

Chairman Kim Jong-un has suspended nuclear tests by repeatedly warning that North Korea would actively use nuclear weapons in conflicts with South Korea and the United States.

South Korean and US officials say North Korea is preparing for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have developed a thermonuclear warhead compatible with an ICBM. Kim Donghyun, Seoul, MDT/AP

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