Washington and Seoul announced their largest war games in five years. Last month, North Korea warned the US and South Korea that Pyongyang would take “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions.”
American and South Korean forces will engage in two different military exercises in mid-March, dubbed “Warrior Shield.” A portion of the war games will involve a computer simulation, while the live-fire military operations are named “Foal Eagle.” The combined drills will run from March 13-23.
The drills were announced on the same day the US sent a B-1B bomber over the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang views the bombers as provocative because of the large payloads the planes can carry.
This year’s Foal Eagle will be the largest joint American and South Korean war games in five years. The Department of Defense claims the military operations are “defensive.” “We’ve conducted routine training like UFS (Ulchi Freedom Shield) and Freedom Shield for decades that have been defensive in nature,” US Forces in Korea spokesperson Col. Isaac Taylor said.
Washington will deploy an aircraft carrier and other strategic assets to the region for the war games, according to the Korean Herald. Additionally, the Pentagon is sending MQ-9 Reaper armed drones to the Korean Peninsula for the first time.
The Foal Eagle war games were last conducted in 2018. Then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in and American President Donald Trump canceled the military drills to help foster diplomacy with North Korea. Pyongyang views the war games as practicing for a regime change against Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
Last month, Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister, blasted Washington and Seoul for considering resuming the war games. “There is no change in our will to make the worst maniacs escalating the tensions pay the price for their action.” She warned North Korea would turn the Pacific Ocean into a “firing range” if the US and South Korea conducted the drills.
More recently, the DPRK warned that it would soon consider continued US military action on the peninsula as a “declaration of war.”
The US and South Korea say they are prepared to respond to increased North Korean military activity by further escalating tensions. “Our military will not tolerate North Korea’s provocations that threaten the life and safety of our people.” South Korean military spokesperson Col. Lee Sung-jun said. “We will sternly respond to such acts with the alliance’s overwhelming capabilities.”
In a press release issued by the North Korean Foreign Ministry on Saturday, Pyongyang cautioned, “the Korean peninsula is turning into the world’s biggest powderkeg and war practice field due to a military expansion scheme led by the United States and its followers.”
On Sunday, North Korea demanded the United Nations take action against US military provocations. “The UN and the international community will have to strongly urge the US and South Korea to immediately halt their provocative remarks and joint military exercises,” a statement from the foreign ministry said, adding that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached an “extremely dangerous level.”