August 16, 2023 12:34
The U.S. and South Korea said on Monday that they will stage the major Ulchi Freedom Shield joint military exercise from Aug. 21 to 31.
The drills will take place in the Pacific and focus on dealing with the evolving nuclear and missile threat from North Korea as well as the rapidly-changing global security landscape exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Along with 10 UN member nations, including Australia, Canada, France and the U.K., the drills will involve the U.S. Space Command for the first time.
North Korea has demanded that the drills are called off and claimed they are a precursor to an invasion.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in Seoul, "The upcoming exercise will be more realistic than ever and step up by a notch the response capabilities of the allies." They will be divided into two phases running from Aug. 21-25 and 28-31.
"The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will take part from the platoon to brigade levels," JCS spokesman Col. Lee Sung-jun said. U.S. Forces Korea spokesman, Col. Isaac Taylor added, "Since the last UFS, one of the changes that we do have now is the space force."
The U.S. created the U.S. Space Forces Korea last year to provide real-time detection of ballistic missile launches. "Throughout this exercise, one of the things that we will be focusing on... is how do we incorporate multidomain operations," Taylor added.
Park Yong-han at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said, "North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles and other long-range missiles fly into space, so it's crucial to gather information and respond accordingly."
The U.S. and South Korea plan around 30 outdoor training maneuvers during the joint exercise, up from 13 last year.
Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and the U.K. are also taking part, while Sweden and Switzerland, which are neutral countries, will act as observers.
The aim is to fine-tune the defenses of the allies after North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear provocations. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has recently ratcheted up tensions by putting his military on a war footing.
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