US, South Korea conduct river-crossing drills as tensions with North escalate
Share selection to:
An estimated 130,000 soldiers from the alliance’s two biggest allies took part in a cross-border drill held last week in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, marking the latest military buildup since the North last month conducted a long-range missile launch.
The simulated river crossing was staged to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Workers’ Party and was the first time American, Australian and South Korean army units have crossed South Korean rivers while on war-fighting maneuvers.
The South Korean army said the exercise, which involved more than 5,000 North Korean soldiers, was a “proof of enhanced capability” to respond to a North Korean threat to destroy Seoul.
The North Korean Army has been holding live-fire drills in the South, a violation of UN resolutions banning the North from using nuclear weapons, missile or artillery systems.
Last week’s cross-border drill was also conducted along the same routes the two countries’ combined ground forces previously crossed to the North on a military exercise held in 1997, which helped seal a 1994 truce in the Korean War, also known as the Korean Emergency. The 1994 war ended in a truce but a number of North Korean warplanes flew over the waters around the truce village of Panmunjom, a site that still hasn’t been fully demilitarised.
Scheduled to hold live-fire drills in the South next month, the North Korean army also deployed its missile systems and artillery units close to the border last month, including one with the long-range Taepodong-2, which is capable of launching a nuclear weapon. The weapons have been a “huge concern,” in recent weeks, given their presence near the border and ability to strike targets in South Korea.
“These deployments demonstrate a capability to use strategic weapons,” South Korea’s military chief, General Lee, told reporters last Friday in Seoul, according to Agence France-Presse.
“There is the possibility that these deployments will trigger a crisis,” Lee said, adding that the North had the capability to attack South Korean and US forces with its missile systems if the situation escalated. He also urged caution in discussing the North’s military buildup, saying “we are the first to be alarmed