US to Ramp Up Military Drills With South Korea, Deploy More Bombers

The steps will raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and almost certainly provoke more North Korean missile tests

The US and South Korea on Tuesday agreed to ramp up joint military exercises, a step that will raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and likely provoke more North Korean weapons tests.

The agreement was reached while Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Seoul and met with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup.

“The two leaders also pledged to further expand and bolster the level and scale of this year’s combined exercises and training,” the two military leaders said in a joint statement released by the Pentagon.

The statement said the two agreed to “expand the scope and scale of combined field training exercises and to conduct a large-scale combined joint fires demonstration this year.”

In 2022, North Korea launched a record number of missile tests as the US and South Korea resumed large-scale war games for the first time since 2017. As part of the joint exercises, the US deployed B-1 bombers to the peninsula for the first time in five years.

Austin and Lee’s statement said there would be more deployments of US bombers and other strategic assets in the future. “The two leaders additionally pledged to closely cooperate in order to continue to deploy US strategic assets in a timely and coordinated manner in the future,” it said.

South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol has been calling for greater nuclear cooperation with the US, suggesting that Washington and Seoul could conduct joint drills that involve US nuclear forces. He’s also suggested that the US could redeploy nuclear weapons to the peninsula for the first time since 1991 or even that Seoul could acquire its own. It’s not clear if the US has agreed to any of Yoon’s ideas, but the joint statement said the two countries would increase nuclear deterrence efforts.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently ordered the “exponential” increase of his country’s nuclear arsenal, and there are concerns that he could soon hold his first nuclear weapons test since 2017. But the Biden administration has shown no interest in taking a diplomatic approach to the heightened tensions and is still demanding the “denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, which is a non-starter for talks with Pyongyang.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.