US, South Korea Plan Next Round of Military Exercises

( – The United States, along with South Korean forces, will be conducting their next round of military exercises in March. Several additional allied countries will be supporting the drills. Leaders hope to increase operability between their forces and improve the capabilities of their alliance. The actions could further provoke North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has a track history of reacting to US and allied military exercises by increasing his own missile test-fires.

New Round of Exercises

The exercises, dubbed Operation Freedom Shield 2024, will take place between March 4 and March 14, and they’ll include drills that cover land, air, sea, and space. Training will include virtual exercises in cyberspace as well. Many of the drills will revolve around thwarting nuclear attacks with forces responding to news that North Korea has been actively growing its arsenal. Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, the UK, France, Columbia, Canada, Belgium, and Australia will be supporting the effort.

Similar exercises have been taking place for years, with the US and South Korea having held their largest in five years in 2023, according to the Associated Press. Operation Warrior Shield FTZ, much like this year’s event, worked to improve defenses and response times across the allied military forces. South Korea reportedly fired over 70 missiles in 2022, marking record numbers of tests on nuclear-capable missiles that have the ability to reach both North Korea and the US mainland.

Growing Tensions With North Korea

Kim has grown increasingly hostile toward South Korea. He stated in January that a peaceful resolution to reunify the countries was off the table and had a statue, once erected to symbolize that objective, torn down. He is also reportedly working to have the southern neighbor redefined as his country’s most aggressive adversary.

North Korean officials demanded in 2023 that the US stop aiding their neighbor by supplying assets and conducting joint drills, calling them “hostile and provocative practices.” They warned that continued involvement could be taken as a declaration of war. Kim further raised tensions with his decision to deploy a spy satellite into space in 2023. The move crumbled a previous, 2018 agreement and led to a no-fly zone across the Korean border.

Pyongyang has become friendly with Russia, only complicating matters. Reuters reports that North Korea has sent millions of munitions since July 2023 in an effort to help the Kremlin defeat and take back Ukraine. Their alliance, combined with China, could significantly worsen tensions in the region.

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