To improve their capacity to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats amid simmering tension over both sides’ military activity, South Korean forces began their annual Hoguk defense drills on Monday. The exercises, scheduled to finish on Saturday, are the most recent in a string of military drills South Korea has conducted in recent weeks, including cooperative ones with the US and Japan.
The most recent field training took place as North Korea continued its record pace of weapon testing this year, including Friday’s firing of a short-range ballistic missile and many artillery rounds close to the strongly fortified inter-Korean border.
The combined and South Korean military exercises have sparked an angry response from Pyongyang, which has labeled them provocations and threatened retaliation. Seoul claims its training is regular and defense-oriented.
The South Korean military, assisted by some US soldiers, would concentrate during the Hoguk drills on maintaining preparedness and enhancing the troops’ capacity to carry out joint operations, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South.
“The forces will conduct real-world day and night maneuvers simulated to counter North Korea’s nuclear, missile, and other diverse threats,” it said in a statement. “This will enable them to master wartime and peacetime mission performance capabilities and enhance interoperability with some US forces.”
After the North launched a missile, fired more than 500 artillery shells, and flew many airplanes close to the prone-to-conflict maritime border last week, tensions erupted.
Seoul denounced Pyongyang and applied its first unilateral sanctions in over five years, citing the actions as a breach of a bilateral military agreement from 2018 that forbade “hostile measures” along the border.
However, the North claimed that the South’s military had increased hostilities by firing its artillery.
According to South Korean MPs, the North has finished preparations for what would be its first nuclear test since 2017. It may perform between the November 7 US midterm elections and the Communist Party session, which began on Sunday in China. However, some observers do not anticipate any tests before the Chinese Congress finishes.