South Korea, US troops kick off annual drills over North threats

South Korea, US troops kick off annual drills over North threats

/ 11:26 AM March 04, 2024

South Korea, US troops kick off annual drills over North threats

South Korean soldiers from Tiger unit, participate in a UFS/TIGER Combined Urban Operations plan as part of Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercises at Wollong Urban Area Operatiions training center on Paju in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, 23 August 2023. JEON HEON-KYUN/POOL/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

SEOUL — South Korean and US militaries kicked off their spring drills on Monday with twice the number of troops joining compared to last year, officials said, as the allies seek to better counter North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile threats.

The Freedom Shield exercises, set for March 4-14, come as North Korea continues to develop its nuclear capabilities with missile and other weapons tests. It will also be first since Pyongyang scrapped a 2018 inter-Korean military pact in November.


The allies’ air forces also began their annual, battalion-level Ssangmae exercises for a five-day run, Seoul’s defense ministry said Monday.


READ: S. Korea, US kick off military drills as N. Korea gears up for massive military parade

Freedom Shield will involve twice the number of troops from both sides compared with last year in 48 rounds of combined field training, including air assault and air strikes, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The exercises are primarily aimed at neutralizing North Korea’s nuclear threats, including by “identifying and striking” cruise missiles, which Pyongyang had indicated could carry nuclear warheads, JCS spokesperson Colonel Lee Sung-jun said.

A nuclear attack scenario will be integrated into summertime drills, he added.

READ: S. Korea, US conduct week-long firing drills near N. Korea border

American strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier and bombers could participate, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said. U.S. Forces Korea said such assets will likely be deployed in line with past practices but declined to elaborate citing security protocol.


“Strategic” is a term often used to describe nuclear forces.

Pyongyang has angrily reacted to the allies’ drills, calling them rehearsals for a nuclear war.

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Seoul and Washington say the exercises are defensive and a response to the North’s threats.

TAGS: North Korea, South korea, USA

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