Tension is high around the Korean peninsula. South Korea and the United States began their largest joint military maneuvers in five years on Monday, despite threats from North Korea.
Washington and Seoul have strengthened their defense cooperation in the face of growing military and nuclear threats from Pyongyang, which has increased weapons tests in recent months. The “Freedom Shield” exercises between the American and South Korean forces, which are to last at least ten days, will focus on “the changing security environment” due to the redoubled aggressiveness of North Korea, declared the allies.
Mock strikes on North Korea
Rarely, the South Korean military revealed in early March that special forces from Washington and Seoul would organize “Teak Knife” military maneuvers – which consist of simulating precision strikes on key installations in North Korea – before “Freedom Shield”.
All these exercises arouse the ire of Pyongyang, which considers them general rehearsals for an invasion of its territory or an overthrow of its regime, while justifying its own nuclear and ballistic weapons programs by the need to defend itself. To show its displeasure, North Korea also launched two cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday, announced the North Korean news agency KCNA.
Washington has repeatedly reaffirmed its “unwavering” commitment to defending South Korea using “the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear” and recently sought to reassure Seoul of their expanded deterrent capability to their allies. Non-nuclear South Korea remains officially committed to non-proliferation, even as there are growing domestic calls for the country to obtain its own nuclear weapons.