South Korea and the US have announced their decision to stage an annual military drill this month, despite North Korea’s previous objections to similar plans.
The maneuvers, codenamed the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, will be conducted from August 19-30, the South Korea-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) announced in a Saturday press statement. More than 50,000 South Korean troops and nearly 30,000 American troops, including most of those stationed in the South together with 3,000 from overseas, will participate in the maneuvers, the CFC said. The military exercise is mainly a computer-simulated drill and the troops will stay at their normal bases. So far, North Korea has not shown any reaction to the CFC’s announcement. In the past, Pyongyang mainly showed severe reactions against similar joint military drills, denouncing them as all-out war rehearsals and pledging to boost its “nuclear deterrence.” South Korea has staged a series of military exercises separately or jointly with the US since December 2012, when Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket which it said put a satellite into orbit. The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of military rhetoric over the past few months. The new planned drill comes as Seoul has agreed to hold a new round of talks with Pyongyang on August 14 over operations at jointly-run industrial complex, Kaesong, located on North Korea’s heavily armed border with South Korea. This latest round of talks over the complex is seen as the toughest since the Kaesong crisis started four months ago.