Are the US-South Korea military drills an act of instigation?

North Korea warned Australia over joint military exercises in the peninsula

North Korea warned Australia over joint military exercises in the peninsula

Are the US-South Korea military drills an act of instigation?

A mock war erupts on the Korean peninsula each year, largely in secret, with thousands of military troops and their commanders tracking and repelling a North Korean attack. It’s all a drill, a large-scale, theoretical exercise aimed at protecting democratic South Korea, a U.S. ally.

North Korea is not a fan.

The military exercises — known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian — have been in the works for months; it prompted the totalitarian nation to declare the drills were “like pouring oil over fire” and “aggravating” an already tense situation in the peninsula. Daniel Pinkston, a military expert who teaches over at Troy University in Seoul, says “the US-South Korea drills will not push the region into war. On the contrary, the more prepared US and South Korean troops are, the lower will be the threat from North Korea”.

No live-fire exercise or tank maneuvering is involved in the Ulchi drills; soldiers, mostly senior officers, sit at computers to practice how they engage in battles and hone their decision-making capabilities.

North Korea's military threatened that it is ready to stage "ruthless" retaliation against South Korea and the United States over their ongoing joint military exercises. “The US will be wholly held accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by such reckless aggressive war maneuvers, as it chose a military confrontation (with North Korea)", a spokesman said in a statement aired by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). North Korea's military stationed at the truce village of Panmunjom stated that the U.S. has ignored its warning forcing them towards a merciless punishment, according to the KCNA.

North Korea’s administration has accused the drills of being a rehearsal for invasion despite reassurances by Seoul and Washington that they are defensive in nature. The Asian country routinely issued warnings before and during the allies' drills, but this year it came amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang following the exchange of bellicose rhetoric.

North Korea has previously issued similar warlike rhetoric whenever U.S. and South Korean troops conducted major joint exercises. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in stated that North Korea must not use the drills as a pretext to launch fresh provocation, explaining that the training is held regularly because of repeated provocations made by the Asian country itself.

There are calls for both the United States and South Korea to pause or downsize the joint military exercises to reduce strain and potentially persuade North Korea into freezing its nuclear program.

History tells us that North Korea reacts harshly to US-South Korean exercises. Last year in August, after joint maneuvers, the North Korean military launched a missile from a submarine. Later, the communist country conducted its fifth nuclear test. It's almost certain that this year's drills will trigger a reaction from North Korea. The question is how strong will it be.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have risen over the past several months as Kim Jong Un’s military continues to test rockets that could reach US territories. The United Nations Security Council imposed severe economic sanctions on Pyongyang for continuing work on its weapons systems.


Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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