FRIDAY, MARCH 3, 2023 by https://morningstaronline.co.uk/
THE South Korean and US militaries said today that they still plan to go ahead with annual large-scale joint exercises later this month.
North Korea has threatened to take “unprecedentedly” strong action against such war games.
The North views the drills as rehearsal for invasion of the country, so it is likely to respond with missile tests, after already firing a number of projectiles in recent weeks.
At a joint press conference, the South Korean and US militaries vowed to conduct the Freedom Shield exercise, a computer-simulated command-post training session, from March 13 to 23 to strengthen their defence and response capabilities.
Colonel Lee Sung Jun, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “The Korea-US alliance will prepare for the FS training while maintaining a firm readiness against potential provocations by the North Korean military.”
Col Lee added that the allies would respond to any North Korean actions with “an overwhelming capability.”
During the exercises, the allies will also conduct a number of large-scale joint field training drills, codenamed Warrior Shield FTX, to improve their operation execution capabilities, said US military spokesman Colonel Isaac L Taylor.
“The Warrior Shield FTX stands for the ROK-US alliance’s capability and resolution to ensure a combined defence posture to defend the ROK,” Col Taylor said, using the abbreviation of South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles in 2022, the most ever for a single year, and several more this year.
Last month, its Foreign Ministry warned that the US and South Korea would face “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions” if they carry out their planned military drills this year, which the North regards as “preparations for an aggression war.”
Later, senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun said that the only way to reduce military tensions on the Korean peninsula was for the US to scrap its plans to deploy strategic assets in South Korea and halt joint drills with its Asian ally.
Mr Kwon said if that it Washington continues its “hostile and provocative practices” against Pyongyang, that could be regarded as a declaration of war.
North and South Korea, together with the US and China, have declared in principle to call a formal end to the Korean war, which ran from 1950 to 1953.
The war ended in an armistice that has never been replaced by peace treaty, so the two sides remain technically at war.