August 21, 2023 13:28
South Korea and the U.S. kicked off the annual joint Ulchi Freedom Shield exercise on Monday that focus on emerging threats from North Korea with the participation of a dozen allies.
The Defense Ministry on Sunday said the drills that continue until Aug. 31 "will reflect the North's increased nuclear and missile capabilities, the changing security situation, and lessons from Ukraine's war against Russia."
Using completely new scenarios, this year's exercise for the first time includes "cognitive warfare," i.e. response training to fake news spread by the North.
That includes psychological warfare tactics using social media that have proved powerful in the war in Ukraine. They aim to paralyze the enemy by exploiting people's psychological vulnerability, for example with "deepfake" doctoring of images of military news and announcements.
The field training, which had been drastically downsized or suspended from 2019 to 2021, returns on an even bigger scale to practice responding to the use of tactical nuclear weapons.
The U.S. Space Forces from Korea and the U.S. mainland are joining South Korean and U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines in the UFS exercise, as will 10 countries that are part of the UN Command, including Australia, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines and the U.K.
In parallel a civil defense exercise will also be staged nationwide from Monday to Thursday in preparation for a national emergency, mobilizing some 580,000 people from central and local government agencies, public organizations and major companies.
On Wednesday, all citizens across the country will take part in a civil defense drill for the first time in six years as air-raid sirens wail and people evacuate, while cars stop and pull over to the side of the road to make way for emergency vehicles.
Military authorities will increase surveillance in the likely event that the North carries out a provocation in protest against the drills.
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