South Korea and the United States have begun their largest joint military exercise in five years. North Korea recently rejected Seoul’s offer of economic aid in exchange for denuclearization. After that, the United States and South Korea started joint exercises. This is the biggest military exercise between the two countries since 2017. Al-Jazeera news.

Officials from both countries said the allies want to step up preparations for a possible North Korean weapons test.

The annual summer exercise in Korea, called Ulchi Freedom Shield, began on Monday and is scheduled to end on September 1.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, pledged to ‘normalize’ joint exercises and increase deterrence against North Korea.

South Korea has started a separate four-day ‘Ulchi Civil Defense Drill’ from Monday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic emerged. The exercise has been started mainly to enhance government defense preparedness.

Yun said the military and civilian drills aim to strengthen preparedness against cyber threats at key facilities such as the country’s chip factories and supply chains to adapt to changing patterns of warfare.

“Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula is built on our air-tight security posture,” Yun told a cabinet meeting.

He calls for thorough exercises based on real-world situations.

It’s the biggest since 2017 in a move to build diplomatic ties with North Korea amid the pandemic and earlier scaled back exercises.

While Washington and Seoul describe the drills as defensive, Pyongyang portrays them as offensive exercises, justifying its nuclear weapons and missile development.

North Korea fired two cruise missiles off its west coast as U.S. and South Korean troops began preliminary training for the exercise last week. The country has conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year, and South Korean officials say they are ready to conduct their seventh nuclear test at any time.

Yun said his government was willing to provide economic support if Pyongyang took steps toward denuclearization. However, North Korea rejected his proposal and openly criticized it.

Kim Yo Jong, the increasingly powerful sister of North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, described Yoon’s proposal as foolish and insisted she had no intention of ending the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The allies will conduct 11 field training programs over the summer, including a brigade-level program involving thousands of troops, South Korea’s defense ministry said.

We will improve missile detection capabilities and push for early deployment of a new interceptor system, the ministry said, to counter North Korea’s growing missile threat targeting the South Korean capital.

The US, South Korea and Japan took part in recent ballistic missile defense exercises off the coast of Hawaii. It is the first such drill since 2017, when relations between Seoul and Tokyo hit their lowest point in years.

(22 Aug)