The United States and South Korea are carrying out their yearly joint military training. North Korea has reacted to the exercises, as in years past, with missile launches. However, a North Korea sympathizer in Seoul also carried out an unexpected attack on the U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
The U.S. and South Korea say the joint training is necessary to show military readiness and resolve. But the exercises also increase tensions and the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula.
About 10,000 South Korean troops and 8,000 U.S. troops take part in the land, sea and air operations. The soldiers also use computer simulations to practice how to answer possible attacks or invasions from North Korea.
U.S. Rear Admiral Lisa Franchetti says these are defensive exercises only.
“Our goal is to be able to work together to deter any type of activity by North Korea and if necessary to defend the Republic of Korea."
North Korea has protested the training. The country’s government says the U.S. and South Korea are planning a possible invasion. North Korea has answered with two missile launches.
Daniel Pinkston is a North Korea expert with the International Crisis Group. He agrees the exercises may increase some tensions in the area. But he says they also keep the peace by showing military strength.
He says North Korea uses force as the tool to solve political disputes inside and outside the country. So, he says, if the government sees weakness it will exploit that weakness.
Mr. Pinkston says he is most concerned that North Korean operational commanders may incorrectly understand the purpose of the joint exercises. He says those commanders have been conditioned to believe that the United States and South Korea are planning to invade North Korea.
The recent knife attack on the U.S. ambassador did not cause a wider conflict. The ambassador was not seriously hurt and the South Korean attacker is not believed to be connected to North Korea. However, North Korea called the attack a just punishment for the joint military training.
I’m Caty Weaver.
VOA correspondent Brian Padden reported this story from Seoul, South Korea. Caty Weaver wrote it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
resolve – n. a strong determination to do something
simulation – n. something that is made to look, feel, or behave like something else especially so that it can be studied or used to train people
deter – v. to prevent (something) from happening
exploit – v. to make use of meanly or unfairly for one's own advantage