The United States and South Korea have agreed to hold large-scale military exercises, including amphibious landings, from March 13 to March 23.
The exercises, dubbed “Freedom Shield,” are aimed at strengthening the allies’ combined defensive posture, according to officials from the two countries in a statement released at a briefing in Seoul on Friday.
“Freedom Shield is designed to strengthen defence and response capabilities of the Alliance by focusing within the exercise scenario on things such as the changing security environment, DPRK aggression and lessons learned from recent wars and conflicts,” the statement said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.
It will feature field exercises on a scale not seen since about 2017 before former U.S. President Donald Trump scaled back public drills to facilitate diplomacy with North Korea.
North Korea has previously responded with missile launches and nuclear threats in response to previous drills. Pyongyang has stated that such joint military operations demonstrate Washington and its allies’ hostility.
Colonel Isaac Taylor, a spokesman for US Forces Korea (USFK), stated that the drills were routine and purely defensive in nature.
North Korea, according to South Korean officials, also conducts annual winter drills.
Although talks with Pyongyang have long been stalled, COVID-19 restrictions have kept drills to a minimum in the intervening years. With North Korea launching a record number of missiles last year and South Korea lifting anti-pandemic measures, the allies are resuming large-scale drills as a warning to Pyongyang.
Over the past month, South Korean and American special operations troops conducted a live-fire drill called “Teak Knife,” which included a US AC-130J gunship, which participated in joint drills for the first time, firing guided missiles and bombs as well as 30mm and 105mm guns.