North Korea issues warning of high cost for U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise

North Korea issued a warning on Tuesday, stating that the United States and South Korea will face severe consequences for organizing their annual Freedom Shield large-scale joint military exercise.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of National Defense in the North criticized the “provocative” 11-day exercise, which began on Monday with intensified field training drills aimed at addressing threats from the nuclear-armed North.

In a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the ministry strongly condemns the increasingly bold military exercises conducted by the U.S. and South Korea. The ministry accuses the two countries of posing a direct military threat to a sovereign state and attempting to invade it.

According to the spokesperson, the North Korean military will actively monitor the provocative actions of its adversaries and carry out responsible military operations to effectively manage the volatile security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea often criticizes the joint exercises conducted by its allies, claiming that they are a practice for an invasion. In the past, North Korea has used these drills as an excuse to carry out its own missile tests. The recent Freedom Shield exercise is the first joint exercise since North Korea abandoned the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, which aimed to ease tensions along the border. This move has raised further concerns about a potential provocative response from Pyongyang.

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The Defense Ministry of South Korea responded on Tuesday to the statement, referring to Freedom Shield as a defensive military exercise that is conducted annually to prepare for North Korea’s provocations and aggression.

“Our military is fully ready to handle any provocations from North Korea,” stated a spokesperson for the ministry in a message to reporters. “In the event that North Korea attempts a direct provocation under the guise of joint exercises, we will respond with an overwhelming force.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years as Pyongyang continues to conduct a series of weapons tests and increase its aggressive rhetoric towards South Korea. Last month, the North Korean regime went as far as labeling Seoul its “principal enemy.” In light of these developments, joint drills have been organized to address the growing concerns and ensure the readiness of both South Korean and international forces.

In recent months, the military cooperation between the United States and South Korea has grown stronger. They have expanded drills and deployed various U.S. assets, including aircraft carriers, a B-52 nuclear bomber, and a nuclear ballistic missile submarine to the Korean Peninsula.

Personnel from 11 other member countries of the United Nations Command are participating in the exercise, along with U.S. and South Korean forces. Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand will be involved in various capacities.

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