As the US and South Korea begin their largest-ever military drills, North Korea has threatened “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea. The drills in-question, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are an annual event that frequently generate tension, which this year led to an order for a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” out of Pyongyang. This rhetoric is hardly new, although experts doubt the North’s ability to put nuclear warheads on their missiles. North Korea views the joint US-South Korean exercises as a “rehearsal for invasion”, and last year threatened to turn DC into a “sea of fire”.
Around 17,000 American soldiers are participating in the exercise, as well as around 300,000 South Korean troops, both significant increases on last year’s numbers. Despite starting on the same day, Key Resolve is more computer simulation-driven and ends on March 18th, while Foal Eagle is more focused on field exercises and runs until April 30th. South Korea’s defense ministry has warned North Korea against any “rash act” that “brings destruction upon itself”, and that any form of provocation will meet a harsh response. In addition to South Korea, the Japanese foreign minister demanded North Korea show restraint.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed yet, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has reported that the exercises will include training for precision attacks on North Korean leadership and its nuclear and missile facilities. These latest exercises are coming just days after the UN passed additional sanctions against North Korea. This past weekend, the Philippines impounded a North Korean cargo vessel under these toughened measures, with a presidential spokesman saying the crew would be deported and the ship subject to a UN-mandated inspection. In response, North Korea said it was readying its nuclear weapons for “pre-emptive” use. Seoul is expected to announce additional sanctions later today, which will most likely draw an angry response from their northern neighbors. The US and South Korea have recently begun formal talks on the deployment of a US missile defense system in the region, which has met serious opposition from not just North Korea, but China and Russia as well.
If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!