South Korea and the US have started large-scale military exercises amid a threat by North Korea to attack the two countries with nuclear weapons if they go ahead with the drills.
About 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans are taking part in the two sets of annual war games dubbed “Foal Eagle” and “Key Resolve.” The drills, which kicked off on Monday, will continue until April 30.
The joint US and South Korean military command said it had notified North Korea of “the non-provocative nature of this training.”
Pyongyang has claimed the exercises are “undisguised nuclear war drills,” which threaten the North’s national sovereignty, and warned of “indiscriminate” nuclear attacks against the US and South Korea in response to “even the slightest military action.”
This is not, however, the first time North Korea threatens the US and South Korea with an attack over the annual military exercises in the region. Pyongyang has long considered the drills, which happen under its nose, as provocative, and has threatened to take action. The US and South Korea go ahead with the exercises every year, nonetheless.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said there is no sign of any unusual military activity by the North that would indicate preparation for action against Seoul and Washington.
North Korea has been at odds with the South since the end of the Korean War of the early 1950s. An armistice ended all military hostilities between the two Koreas back then, but no peace deal ever ensued, meaning that, while the two countries are not at war, they are not at peace, either.
In the tensions that emerge too frequently, the US has been taking South Korea’s side. Washington says Pyongyang is after developing long-range missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and can reach the US. North Korea says its adversaries, including the US, seek to bring the regime in Pyongyang down, and it is thus strengthening itself against hostile countries.