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S Korea, US hold largest live-fire drills to respond to 'full-scale' attack

South Korea's military drones fly in formation during a South Korea-US joint military drill at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon. - AFP
South Korea's military drones fly in formation during a South Korea-US joint military drill at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon. - AFP

SEOUL: South Korean and US forces began their largest-ever joint live-fire exercises on Thursday, simulating a "full-scale attack" from North Korea, South Korea's defence ministry said.

Some 2,500 troops from the South and the United States took part as the five-day exercise began in Pocheon near the border with the North, the ministry said. Multiple tanks, howitzers and fighter jets were also involved, it said.

"The exercise demonstrated our military's capability and readiness to strongly respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats and to a full-scale attack," the ministry said in a news release.

Last week, North Korea's state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un had approved final preparations for the launch of the North's first military spy satellite. Kim has said it is necessary to counter threats from the US and South Korea.

Analysts say the satellite will improve North Korea's surveillance capability, enabling it to strike targets more accurately in the event of war.

Recent commercial satellite imagery showed progress on a new launch pad in the North's satellite launching station, with activity at a "new level of urgency," most likely in preparation for the launch, the US-based monitoring group 38 North said.

US and South Korean forces have been carrying out various training in recent months, including air and sea drills involving US B-1B bombers, after hopes for diplomatic efforts and Covid-19 restrictions led to many drills being scaled back.

North Korea has reacted angrily to the drills, which it sees as preparation by US and South Korean forces for an invasion.

Meanwhile, North Korean media criticised on Thursday plans by South Korea, the United States and Japan to share real-time data on Pyongyang's missile launches, describing the trio as discussing "sinister measures" for tightening military cooperation.

The information sharing pact is a result of American efforts to incite confrontation and boost its military edge in the region by "cooking up the 'Asian-version Nato'," said a commentary under the name Kang Jin Song, an international affairs analyst, carried in state media KCNA.

"This is heightening the vigilance of regional countries including the DPRK to the maximum," it said, using the initials of the country's official name.

The comments come after the leaders of South Korea, the United States and Japan met at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, at the weekend and agreed to deepen trilateral cooperation on security.

The discussions included new coordination in the face of North Korea's illicit nuclear and missile threats, as well as on economic security, and on their respective Indo-Pacific Strategies, according to the White House. - Reuters

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