SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea and the United States will resume long-suspended live field training during their joint military drills, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday (July 22), as they work to curb North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile programmes.
The allies are set to kick off their annual summertime exercises next month, after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, vowed to “normalise” joint drills and boost deterrence against the North.
South Korea and the United States plan to conduct 11 joint field exercises including one brigade-level, the ministry said, adding they aim to hold more joint field exercises of regiment-level or higher.
“We plan to stage combined air carrier strike group training and drills for amphibious operations at an early date, among others,” South Korean Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup told reporters after briefing Mr Yoon on policy matters.
The two sides had scaled back their combined military drills in recent years due to Covid-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North.
North Korea has conducted missile tests at an unprecedented pace this year and is believed to be preparing for its seventh nuclear test.
President Yoon said Pyongyang could go ahead with the test, potentially its first since 2017, at “any time”.
To better counter North Korea’s growing missile threats targeting the South’s capital area, the defence ministry said it would improve missile detection capabilities and push for an early deployment of a new interceptor system.
Mr Yoon also ordered the defence ministry to put utmost efforts into beefing up the country’s missile defence system against the North’s threats, his spokesperson Kang In-sun said.