SEOUL: South Korea and the United States began their annual joint military drills on Monday (Aug 22) with a resumption of field training, officials said, as the allies seek to tighten readiness posture over North Korea’s potential weapons tests.
The summertime exercises, renamed Ulchi Freedom Shield this year and scheduled to end on Sep 1, came after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, vowed to “normalise” the combined exercises and boost deterrence against the North.
The drills were scaled back in recent years 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 town of Onchon 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 and is ready to conduct its seventh nuclear test at any time, Seoul officials said.