Korea, US launch military drills, North threatens nuclear strikes

195

SEOUL: South Korea and the United States kicked off their largest-ever joint military drills on Monday, prompting fresh warnings from North Korea of “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes against Seoul and the US mainland.

The annual exercises always raise tensions on the divided Korean peninsula and the situation is particularly volatile this year, given the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch and its fury over tough UN sanctions imposed in response.

Participation in the joint drills — known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — has been bumped up this year to involve 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 US troops, as well as strategic US naval vessels and air force assets.

In a statement issued hours before the exercises began, North Korea’s powerful National Defence Commission said it was prepared for an “all-out” military counter-offensive.

“As the joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of (North Korea), its military counteraction will be more pre-emptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them,” it said.