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4 Jan, 2024 12:58

US and South Korea hold live-fire drills near North’s border

Pyongyang has described the military exercises as “reckless maneuvers”
US and South Korea hold live-fire drills near North’s border

Troops from South Korea and the United States have held week-long combat exercises involving heavy weaponry and live-firing drills close to the North Korean border, Seoul has confirmed.

The drills, South Korea said on Thursday, were conducted to boost the allies’ military readiness in the face of expanded threats from North Korea. Pyongyang, meanwhile, has described the latest military collaboration between Washington and Seoul as “reckless war maneuvers.”

The exercises, which involved a South Korean Army mechanized infantry brigade and the US Stryker Brigade Combat Team, began on December 29 in the border city of Pocheon, some 46km (28.5 miles) northeast of Seoul. The operations concluded on Thursday, Seoul’s army said.

Some 110 weapons systems from South Korea and the US were involved in the exercises, which simulated precision-guided strikes on hypothetical targets, Yonhap news agency said on Thursday. It also included heavy-armor operations, including integrated tank-air defense firing.

Washington and Seoul have dramatically scaled up their joint military exercises in the region over the course of the past year as tensions flared on the Korean Peninsula over a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang. North Korea test-fired an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last year, which Pyongyang said was capable of hitting targets on the mainland United States, as well as closer regional rivals.

North Korea also successfully launched a spy satellite last year, which directly led to the suspension of a military agreement signed with South Korea in 2018 designed to reduce military tensions between the neighbors, who remain technically at war.

Washington has responded to the North’s weapons tests by deploying military assets to the region, including a nuclear-powered submarine which docked in the South Korean port city of Busan last month. The US has also positioned aircraft carriers and large bombers in the region.

Concluding a year-end meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged to grow the North’s nuclear capabilities in order to “pacify the South.”

Kim added that the joint exercises held by South Korea and the US were “reckless war maneuvers” that posed a significant threat to regional security.

“With the instinct of confrontation deep in their bones, the puppets again marked the new year by making the aggressive choice that stokes war,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency said earlier this week. “2024 is the year of the highest risk of conflict.”

South Korea also confirmed on Wednesday that it had held live-firing drills and anti-submarine exercises in waters off its east, west and south.