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US, South Korea Kickstart Biggest Military Drills Since 2018 Amid Criticism From Pyongyang

© AP Photo / Lee Jin-manSouth Korean army soldiers walk after an anti-terror drill as a part of Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise at National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017
South Korean army soldiers walk after an anti-terror drill as a part of Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise at National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.08.2022
The Ulchi-Freedom Shield (UFS) - a joint military exercise between the US and South Korea - will be conducting drills involving 13 field training programs, including an exercise to vet the full operational capability of the South Korean forces in case of an attack by Pyongyang, according the South Korea's Defense Ministry.
The United States and South Korea on Monday kickstarted large-scale military and civil defense drills on and around the Korean peninsula, the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Under this year’s Ulchi-Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise, troops from both countries are resuming field training as well as live-fire drills, which had been suspended since 2017 as former South Korean President Moon Jae-in pushed for normalizing ties with North Korea.
FILE - An employee of the Kyonghung Foodstuff General Store disinfects the showroom in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. Before acknowledging domestic COVID-19 cases, Thursday, May 12, 2022, North Korea spent 2 1/2 years rejecting outside offers of vaccines and steadfastly claiming that its superior socialist system was protecting its 26 million people from “a malicious virus” that had killed millions around the world. - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.08.2022
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Yoon Suk-yeol, Moon’s successor, pledged to “normalize” the combat drills in an attempt to boost deterrence capabilities against North Korea upon assuming office in May.
According to Seoul, the UFS will have three main components: a computer-simulation command post exercise, field training and civil defense drills.
The first part of the drills will focus on “repelling” a potential attack from North Korea and simulating the defense of South Korea's capital Seoul, and the second part will focus on “counter-attack”, according to information released by South Korean officials.
Around 480,000 people at 4,000 South Korean public-sector companies are expected to take part in the civil defense - or annual Ulchi - drills, according to Yonhap News Agency.
Addressing a cabinet meeting on Monday, President Yoon urged public participation in the civil defense drills in order to “support military operations” in case of an attack from North Korea.

"Only exercises that are identical to an actual battle can firmly defend the lives of our people and the security of our nation. To maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula, our watertight security stance must serve as the basis," the South Korean leader remarked at the meeting.

North Korea Slams Joint Military Drills

North Korea has been severely critical of the joint military exercises in the region, as it launched two cruise missiles off its western coast last week in what is being viewed as a show of protest.
Pyongyang has described the UFS as a preparation for war on the part of South Korea and the US.
North Korea fired its latest cruise missiles as the South Korean President completed 100 days in office. President Yoon has offered economic aid to North Korea if its leader Kim Jong-un agrees to give up the country’s nuclear program.
Pyongyang has carried out 18 missile tests this year, according to CNN, compared with the five it conducted in 2021. US intelligence has claimed that Pyongyang is also preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in the months ahead, which would be its first in five years.
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