On Mon., the US and South Korea began the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) – reportedly their biggest joint military exercises since 2017 – amid mounting tensions with the North.
The full-scale drills, which will take place until Sept. 1, are expected to involve thousands of troops, warplanes, warships, and tanks. According to the South's defense ministry, there will be at least 11 field training programs.
The exercises will have two components, with the first being focused on frustrating potential North Korean attacks and defending the greater Seoul area, and the latter involving counterattack operations.
Also on Mon., South Korea launched its four-day Ulchi civil defense drills, which will be held concurrently with the UFS's first set of drills to improve Seoul's readiness for a possible attack.
The annual summertime drills had been scaled back as a result of the 2018 Trump-Kim summit, as South Korea's former Pres. Moon Jae-in sought to revive nuclear talks with the North.
This comes as Pyongyang has resumed missile tests over the past year, reportedly launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at full range for the first time since 2017 and allegedly on the brink of conducting a nuclear test.
Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by DW. Seoul and Washington have for four years demonstrated goodwill toward Pyongyang in the hopes of creating a conducive environment for disarmament talks. However, as North Korea has failed to make good on its promises – resuming its missile tests and working on its nuclear program – this course correction is greatly needed to restore its readiness for an attack from the North.
Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by AntiWar. While Washington was truly committed to de-escalating tensions with North Korea, Pyongyang responded positively, halting missile tests and demolishing several testing sites. This changed when the US began to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, posing an existential threat to the DPRK. The UFS is simply a provocative drill that will only escalate tensions even more.