South Korea and the United States will resume their long-suspended live field training sessions in August, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced on July 22.
The joint drills are scheduled for Aug. 22 to Sept. 1. Exercises will combine computer simulation-based command post training, civil contingency, and field maneuver drills.
There will be 11 joint field exercises in total, including a brigade-level drill.
“We plan to stage combined air carrier strike group training and drills for amphibious operations at an early date, among others,” South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup told reporters after briefing South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on policy matters.
In 2018, joint drills between South Korea and the United States were scaled down as part of the Trump administration’s push for boosting diplomatic engagement with North Korea.
In the first half of 2020, bilateral drills were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020 and March 2021, only computer simulation exercises were carried out, which raised concerns about the two nations’ ability to respond in case of a crisis.
The United States has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. As most U.S. military personnel are stationed in Seoul, South Korea, for roughly a year, the joint drills tend to be the only time they’re able to take part in real-world training with allies there.
Threat From North Korea’s Nuclear Program
The joint drill announcement comes as North Korea has conducted a spate of missile launches throughout 2022, triggering tensions in the region.
Pyongyang is also believed to be preparing for a nuclear test, with Yoon saying that it could happen “any time,” according to Reuters. If true, this would be North Korea’s first nuclear missile test since 2017 and its seventh nuclear missile test overall.
The South Korean Defense Ministry is focused on boosting its missile detection capabilities. The ministry has called for the early deployment of a missile defense system to thwart any long-range artillery attacks by North Korea against the Seoul metropolitan region.
Japan’s 2022 defense report (pdf) states that weapons tested by Pyongyang this year pose unique challenges to Japan’s defense networks.
“North Korea is believed to have the capability to attack Japan with ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons, and it continues to develop ballistic missiles at an extremely rapid pace,” the defense report reads.
In June, the U.S. State Department’s special representative, Sung Kim, warned about North Korea preparing for a seventh nuclear weapons test.
Reuters contributed to this report.