South Korea and U.S. Launch Major Military Drills Amid North Korean Threats

SEOUL — South Korea and the United States commenced their annual Freedom Shield military exercise on Monday, aiming to fortify defenses against North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations. The drills, spanning an 11-day period, occur amidst escalating tensions, following North Korea's recent military activities, including artillery firings and missile launches.

The exercise, which is the first since North Korea withdrew from a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement intended to ease border tensions, is being closely watched for potential North Korean responses. Historically, Pyongyang has criticized such drills as preparations for invasion, often responding with missile tests. However, Seoul and Washington maintain that the exercises are defensive in nature.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the Freedom Shield exercise is designed to enhance the allies' combined defense capabilities through multi-domain operations, including land, sea, air, cyber, and space assets, and to counteract North Korean nuclear threats. Col. Lee Sung-jun, spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the drills would simulate a range of scenarios, including the detection and interception of North Korean cruise missiles.

The drills will feature 48 field exercises, a significant increase from the previous year, all conducted away from the inter-Korean border. Participants include personnel from 12 United Nations Command member states, such as Australia, Britain, the Philippines, and Thailand, with oversight by the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC). The NNSC's role is to monitor the implementation of the Korean War armistice, a conflict that technically remains unresolved due to the absence of a peace treaty.

In anticipation of North Korean provocations, reconnaissance flights by South Korean and U.S. aircraft have been reported, monitoring North Korean military movements.

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