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ConflictsNorth Korea

US, South Korea launch drills to counter North's threat

March 4, 2024

The militaries of US and South Korea have begun joint military exercises to counter North Korea's provocations. They are conducting their "Freedom Shield" and other field drills for 11 days.

An RC-12X Guardrail prepares for take-off at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 60 kilometers south of Seoul.
The US and South Korea are allies in accordance with the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty Image: Yonhap/picture alliance

Officials said the militaries of South Korea and the US began their computer-simulated command
post training "Freedom Shield" and a variety of field exercises Monday, to counter North Korea's saber-rattling

What do we know about the military drills? 

The joint military exercises are happening from March 4-14, and come as Pyongyang continues to develop its nuclear capabilities with missile and other weapons tests.

It has twice the number of troops from both US and South Korea as compared to last year, in 48 rounds of combined field training, including live-firing, bombing, air assault and missile interception drills, said South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

Since early 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 rounds of missile tests to modernize its arsenal, as the US and South Korea have retaliated with increased drills.

Leader Kim Jong Un had vowed to "annihilate" South Korea and the United States if provoked.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said Washington and Seoul's air forces also began their annual, battalion-level Ssangmae exercises for a five-day run.

What's behind new tensions between North and South Korea

The exercises aim to neutralize North Korea's nuclear threat. One of the methods is by "identifying and striking" cruise missiles, which Pyongyang maintains could carry nuclear warheads, JCS spokesperson Colonel Lee Sung-jun said. 

He said a nuclear attack scenario will be integrated into summertime drills.

North Korea detests US-South Korea military exercises

Pyongyang has expressed anger and called these drill rehearsals for nuclear war or an invasion.

American strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier and bombers could participate, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said. "Strategic" is a term often used to describe nuclear forces.

Experts believe the chances of North Korea launching a full-blown attack are slim, as Pyongyang is aware it is outmatched by the militaries of Washington and Seoul. They say North Korea believes an advanced nuclear arsenal will increase its leverage in future diplomacy.

tg/wd (AP, Reuters)