South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the US and South Korea will hold their “largest-ever” live-fire drills this June, a move that will anger Pyongyang and ensure tensions on the Korean Peninsula will remain high.
The ministry said the drills would be conducted to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the US-South Korean alliance. “The program is designed to showcase the ability of the two nations to materialize peace through strength via action, amid stern security situations arising from North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the ministry said.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Washington and Seoul have conducted massive combined live-fire drills less than 10 times, including the last in 2017. The Trump administration stopped conducting major exercises with South Korea around that time as part of an effort to reduce tensions and make room for diplomacy.
The Biden administration resumed major drills with Seoul, and the US and South Korea are currently conducting their largest war games in five years, known as Freedom Shield. North Korea has responded by conducting more weapons tests. On Wednesday, Pyongyang fired cruise missiles into the sea about a week after testing a Hwasong-17, an ICBM that is North Korea’s most powerful missile.
The Freedom Shield exercises are wrapping up on Thursday, but the tensions will continue to rise as the US and South Korea are planning more joint drills. The Biden administration has shown no interest in reducing tensions, and there’s no sign the tit-for-tat escalations will stop anytime soon.