A joint military drill by South Korea and the United States has begun in the Korean peninsula against the North, despite Pyongyang’s threat of a nuclear strike.
The joint military exercise, like always, has triggered a spike in tension on the divided Korean peninsula. This time the threat coincides with volatile cross-border relations following a series of high-profile defections from the North to the South.
The two-week annual Ulchi Freedom drill, which plays out a full-scale invasion scenario by the nuclear-armed North, is largely computer-simulated but still involves around 50,000 Korean and 25,000 US soldiers.
Seoul and Washington have always maintained that the joint military drills are purely defensive in nature, but Pyongyang views them as wilfully provocative.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry condemned Ulchi Freedom as an “unpardonable criminal act” that could bring the peninsula to “the brink of war”.
The Korean People’s Army (KPA), meanwhile, threatened a military response to what it described as a rehearsal for a surprise nuclear attack and invasion of the North.
North Korea’s frontline units were “fully ready to mount a preemptive retaliatory strike at all enemy attack groups involved,” said a spokesman for the KPA General Staff.
The slightest violation of North Korea’s territorial sovereignty would result in the source of the provocation being turned “into a heap of ashes through Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike,” the spokesman said.