Despite Kim Jong Un’s warning that war games and testing along the DMZ will not be tolerated, the US and South Korea went ahead with plans for heavy weapons testing on May 25th. As the first round of life-fire exercises is slated between now and mid-June, these tests send a strong signal to the leader of the hermit nation.
Titled “Combined annihilation firepower drills,” these exercises are the largest efforts of the two nations and have been conducted 11 times since 1977, per the South Korean Defense Ministry. A wide variety of equipment is slated to be put through its paces. In the opening round, over 2,500 troops and 610 weapons systems were involved in the show of force. Everything from fighter jets and attack helicopters to drones and artillery were used.
Moon Seong Mook, an analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, believes these are important components to keeping North Korea’s Kim on edge and to help stop him from continuously rattling his saber. “North Korea can’t help feeling some burdens over the South Korea-U.S. joint firepower drills being held for the first time in six years and in the strongest manner.”
Given the posturing, rhetoric, and over 100 missile tests since the start of 2022, North Korea has been doing everything it can to try and intimidate the two nations, as well as anyone else in the Pacific.
Strongly backed (at least in public) by China, as well as finding a willing trade partner in the heavily sanctioned Russia has left Kim feeling emboldened. Given Biden’s weak stance towards the country, hopefully, the troops have given Kim something to think about.