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US and South Korean forces rehearse an amphibious landing

US and South Korean forces rehearse an amphibious landing

The first such drills in five years are taking place against a backdrop of North Korean protests and near-daily missile launches.

The US and South Korean militaries have embarked on a large-scale joint exercise aimed at practicing amphibious landings, South Korean media reported. The drills, which are part of the ongoing ‘Freedom Shield’ maneuvers, went ahead despite repeated warnings from Pyongyang.

On Monday, South Korea’s KBS TV channel, citing the country’s military, reported that the ‘Ssangyong’ exercises had begun on the east coast of North Gyeongsang Province, and are expected to conclude on the 3 of April The outlet said they are the first after a five-year hiatus, with entire divisions taking part this time instead of just brigades.

The exercise features more than 30 ships from both countries, 70 aircraft, including F-35B stealth fighters and AH-64 attack helicopters, as well as 50 amphibious assault vehicles.

Last week, Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean military officials as saying that the ‘Ssangyong’ maneuvers were aimed at demonstrating the “overwhelming” capabilities of partner nations.

“The upcoming exercise will demonstrate the willingness of the South Korea-US alliance to achieve ‘peace through strength,'” Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Gye-hwan explained.

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North Korea simulates a tactical nuclear attack

According to Yonhap, several dozen British marines are taking part in the drills for the first time, with military personnel from Australia, France and the Philippines observing.

North Korea, meanwhile, said on Monday it had fired a missile “with a test warhead that simulated a nuclear payload” over the weekend, demonstrating Pyongyang’s firepower and readiness to respond to any ” reckless move” by Washington and Seoul.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as arguing that “only when the North is fully equipped with a nuclear strike posture can it carry out its important strategic mission of deter war”.

Kim watched Sunday morning’s missile launch along with his daughter Ju-ae.

The DPRK’s latest show of force was preceded by other missile launches over the past week.

Pyongyang insists its increased military activity is merely a response to ongoing military exercises between the US and South Korea, which the North believes is preparing for an attack.

Washington and Seoul, in turn, say the maneuvers are their response to the North’s destabilizing actions, including a record number of missile launches in 2022.

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