Seoul: South Korea and the US on Monday began their largest annual war games as North Korea’s top leader Kim Jong-un warned of a nuclear strike against the US following a nuclear test and rocket launch earlier this year, the Combined Forces Command (CFC) said. The largest war exercises so far staged on the Korean peninsula came after North Korea tested its first hydrogen bomb on January 6 and followed up with the launch of a long-range rocket on February 7, which is seen as a test of ballistic missile technology.
The exercises, code-named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, are scheduled to run till the end of April, Xinhua news agency reported. The CFC said the UN Command, the unified command structure for the multinational military forces supporting South Korea during and after the 1950-53 Korean War, had informed the North Korean Army through the truce village of Panmunjom about the dates of the exercises and their non-provocative nature.
Joint amphibious landing manoeuvres, called Ssang Yong exercise, will also be the largest in scale since it was launched in 2012. South Korea and the US have increased the deployment of surveillance assets against possible provocations from North Korea, which has denounced the war games as a dress rehearsal for a northward invasion.
In face of the US-South Korea war games, Kim had ordered nuclear warheads to be placed on standby for use at any time. Kim said the enemies were planning to carry out the “beheading operation” that targets the North Korean leadership and its system. He made the remarks when he guided the test-firing of a new multiple rocket launcher, boosting concerns over the already heightened tensions on the peninsula.