South Korea and United States to Hold Small Military Exercises | North Korea News

Although reduced because of COVID, the exercise is likely to anger North Korea, which is calling it a “ repeat for war ”.

South Korea and the United States will begin their annual military exercises on Monday, the South Korean military said, adding that the joint exercise will be smaller than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The nine-day war games will be a “computer-simulated command post exercise,” Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement on Sunday, stressing that the exercise is “strictly defensive” in nature.

The Yonhap News Agency said the exercises will not include outdoor maneuvers, as they have been carried out throughout the year, while the number of soldiers and equipment will be minimized due to the pandemic.

Although reduced, the combined exercises still risk angering North Korea, which calls them “rehearsal for war.”

The JCS said South Korea and the United States decided to go ahead with the military exercise after “fully considering the COVID-19 situation, maintaining the readiness position for the combat, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of peace ”.

He added that part of the exercise will involve preparation for the full operational capability test, which is necessary for the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from the United States to South Korea.

From the Korean War of 1950 to 1953, the US military has retained the power to control South Korean and US forces in the event that another war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula. There are approximately 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.

Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, has made obtaining operational control of these joint forces a major goal of his administration.

While this week’s drills will assess Seoul’s readiness to take control of OPCON, the reduced nature of the drills could complicate Moon’s drive to complete the transfer before his term ends in 2022.

Even before the pandemic, exercises had been scaled back to facilitate US negotiations to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

But those talks have been at an impasse since a summit between North Korean and US leaders collapsed in February 2019 after then-US President Donald Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s demands. reduction of sanctions in exchange for the partial cession of his country’s nuclear power. capabilities.

With stalled talks and Kim promise in January to expand its weapons programs, experts to worry North Korea could use upcoming military exercises to resume nuclear and missile testing.

“Welp. Set your watches, ”Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review, said on Twitter, referring to a possible North Korea response to the American and South Korean war games.

But Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea, said he didn’t expect Pyongyang “to respond too militarily this time.”

“I think there are too many things on the national agenda that are going wrong to risk a significant ‘tit-for-tat’ escalation, he said on Twitter.” And this is a government which tends to focus most of its resources on one key issue at a time. ”

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in Asia and faces its most severe challenges since a famine killed millions of people in the 1990s.

The country’s economy, already battered by US sanctions, has been hammered by border closures linked to the pandemic with its main trading partner, China, causing “widespread food shortages and malnutrition”, according to a United Nations expert United.

In addition to the suffering, tens of thousands of homes and large swathes of farmland were also damaged in flooding last summer.

Kim, at the Workers’ Party Congress in January, called the past five years “the worst of the worst.”

Last month, the North Korean leader fired a high economic official and torn in the performance of his cabinet, saying they had failed to come up with new ideas to save the struggling economy.

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