0535 GMT December 01, 2022
The annual summertime exercises, renamed Ulchi Freedom Shield this year and scheduled to end on Sept. 1, came after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, vowed to “normalize” the combined exercises and boost deterrence against the North, according to Reuters.
South Korea separately launched the four-day Ulchi civil defense drills on Monday, designed to boost government readiness, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic emerged.
The military and civil exercises are aimed at improving the country’s preparedness to match the changing patterns of war, with evolving cyber threats against key facilities such as chip factories and supply chains, Yoon said.
“Maintaining peace on the Korean peninsula is built on our airtight security posture,” Yoon told a cabinet meeting, calling for thorough exercises based on real-world scenarios.
The drills were the largest since 2017 after being scaled back because of COVID-19 and as Yoon’s predecessor sought to restart talks with Pyongyang, which has called the exercises a rehearsal for invasion.
North Korea fired two cruise missiles from the west coast last week, after South Korea and the United States kicked off preliminary training for the exercises.
North Korea has conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year.
Yoon has said his government is willing to provide economic aid if Pyongyang takes steps toward denuclearization, but North Korea has rebuffed his offer, openly criticizing him.
North Korea has always been critical of such military wargames new its borders.