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South Korea and US conduct joint military exercises

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South Korea and US conduct joint military exercises

South Korea
Photo: Chung Sung-jun/Getty Images

The US and South Korea will today begin an annual nine-day simulated joint military exercise.

The two countries have conducted joint-command exercises via computer simulation since 2018 and both militaries have indicated that these “strictly defensive” drills will continue in this fashion. Exercises were scaled back in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks in the military, but both countries are content to continue easing the scale of drills in order to entice North Korea to resume denuclearisation and peace negotiations.

These bilateral military drills serve to affirm domestic Korean military capabilities, partly so that President Moon Jae-in can fulfill a campaign promise to return wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul. Part of this return included a defence cost-sharing agreement, finally reached between the two countries on Sunday, which guarantees ongoing South Korean payments for US troop deployment on the peninsula. Washington, for its part, is reluctant to fully retreat from the peninsula due to ongoing concerns about Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear program and Chinese foreign policy in the region. That said, Seoul seems determined as ever to transition to military autonomy and it looks likely to achieve OPCON by the self-imposed 2022 deadline.

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