The South Korean and U.S. militaries launched their biggest joint exercises in years Monday while North Korea said it tested submarine-fired cruise missiles in an apparent protest of the drills it views as an invasion rehearsal.
North Korea’s launches Sunday signal the country likely will conduct provocative weapons testing during the U.S.-South Korean drills that are expected to run for 11 days. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to be ready to repel rivals’ “frantic war preparation moves.”
North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats, along with concerns about China’s ambitions, is pushing the United States to beef up its Asian alliances. In the past year, North Korea has been steadily expanding its nuclear arsenal, as China and Russia repeatedly blocked U.S.-led efforts to toughen sanctions on the North despite its barrage of banned missile tests.
The South Korean-U.S. drills include a computer simulation and several combined field training exercises. South Korean officials said the field exercises would return to the scale of the allies’ earlier largest field training that was last held in 2018.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said that the launches of two cruise missiles from a submarine off its east coast showed a resolve to respond with “overwhelming powerful” force to the intensifying military maneuvers by “the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces.”