South Korea, US troops to hold massive live-fire drills near border with North Korea
South Korean and American troops are to hold massive live-fire drills near the border with North Korea, despite warnings by Pyongyang that it will not tolerate such a "war rehearsal" on its doorstep.
The armies of both countries will hold what it seems to be the largest-ever joint live-fire exercise - known as the "joint and combined firepower annihilation training" - from May 25 to June 15 to celebrate seven decades of military alliance between Seoul and Washington.
The joint drills began in 1977 and have so far been held 11 times, with the current ones featuring unmanned and other high-tech assets in live-fire and field training exercises.
According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, this year's joint drills are planned to involve advanced stealth fighter jets, attack helicopters, multiple rocket launch systems and other weapons from South Korea and the US.
It is not yet known how many troops would take part in the drills, but the previous exercise in 2017 saw the participation of some 2,000 soldiers and the presence of 250 weapons assets from both countries.
In an earlier statement, the South Korean Defense Ministry said that the drills were meant to boost the allies’ combined operational performance capabilities, and that Washington and Seoul would seek to establish “the overwhelming deterrence and response capabilities” to cope with what it called North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
Pyongyang typically reacts to such major South Korean-US military exercises with missile and other weapons tests.
Last Friday, North Korea’s state media - KCNA - called the drills “a typical North Korea-targeted war rehearsal,” stressing that Pyongyang cannot but take a more serious note of the fact that the drills would be held in an area a few kilometers from its frontier.
It also said that the US and South Korea would face unspecified “corresponding responses” over their large-scale, provocative drills.
North Korea, which declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power last year, is seeking to diversify delivery mechanisms for its nuclear weapons. Its military conducted a firing drill late last month, simulating a nuclear attack using tactical ballistic missiles. The North's leader, Kim Jong-un, has called on the military to be ready for war.