Washington and Seoul have kicked off their largest joint military exercises in years on Monday. The Ulchi Freedom Shield drills are set to continue through September 1, and will include numerous aircraft, warships and pieces of artillery, with thousands of troops training for different “defensive” and “counterattack” scenarios.
The first stage of the drills will be focused on repelling a hypothetical North Korean attack, as well as civil defense responce to varios simulated threats, such as “fire at a semiconductor factory,” “airport terrorism,” or “discovery of improvised explosive devices at nuclear power plants,” according to Yonhap.
In the second stage, the allied forces will sharpen their “counterattack” capabilities, by conducting live fire drills during more than a dozen of different combined field training programs.
While Seoul and Washington insist their military cooperation is purely defensive, Pyongyang has repeatedly called them “rehearsals” for a potential invasion. In recent years, these annual exercised were scaled back, first because diplomatic efforts and later due to the Covid-19 pandemic, before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May and vowed to revive and “normalize” this “deterrent.”