News / Asia

US, South Korea Begin Military Drill Amid North Korean War Threats

South Korean protesters rally against the annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States in front of the South Korean and United States War Command Center in Seongnam, South Korea, Feb. 28, 2011.
South Korean protesters rally against the annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States in front of the South Korean and United States War Command Center in Seongnam, South Korea, Feb. 28, 2011.

South Korea and the United States on Monday began their annual extensive joint military exercises, prompting a renewed war threat by North Korea.

More than 12,000 members of the U.S. military are joining 200,000 South Korean service members for the maneuvers.

South Korean media report that exercise scenarios this year include tracing weapons of mass destruction and coping with a sudden regime change in Pyongyang.

Retired U.S. Army General John Wickham, who commanded American forces here, says it is not surprising that such a contingency has become part of the long-standing joint exercise.

"That's an important thing to be concerned about, given the uncertainty of food problems and the transition of leadership. It would be foolhardy if the South Korean authorities and the Combined Forces authorities weren't planning for the potential of something like that.  I'm sure the Chinese are concerned about that, too," said Wickham.

The United States says the drills are defensive in nature and that it informed North Korea in advance about the exercises.

There are two parts to the drill. A command post computer simulation war game called Key Resolve is scheduled to continue until March 10.  Air, ground and naval forces are taking part in maneuvers code-named "Foal Eagle".  They are expected to run through the end of
April.

South Korean media report that the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan will participate.  U.S. military sources say an announcement is expected to be made by the end of this week on which navy ships will take part in "Foal Eagle".

North Korea’s army on Sunday said the U.S.-South Korea drills are aimed at removing the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal and destroying the country. It warned that provoking Pyongyang through the exercises would lead to "all-out war" with the South Korean capital being turned into "a sea of fire."

General Wickham says he has heard similar rhetoric before and that he is not overly concerned. "I think this is more saber rattling to see how far they can push the envelope of tension and fear," he said.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry denies a Yonhap news agency report quoting the Joints Chiefs of Staff here as saying the country’s military alert status for maritime and land borders has been raised to cope with any provocations from the North.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula soared to their highest level in decades last year. North Korea was blamed for sinking a South Korean naval warship in the Yellow Sea. Forty-six South Korean sailors died in the incident. In the same waters, North Korea shelled Frontier island where the South was conducting a military drill.  Four people died on Yeongpyeong Island during that incident.

North Korea on Sunday also threatened to fire again into the South if a propaganda balloon campaign is not halted.

Two-and-a-half million leaflets were floated into the North earlier this month. The balloons carried messages ridiculing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and calling for people to rise against the communist government. The balloons also carried news of the Middle East uprisings.

Governing Grand National Party lawmaker Shin Ji-ho, who took part in a recent balloon launch near the Demilitarized Zone says that regardless of what North Korea says, South Korea will continue to send balloons over the border.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs