US, South Korea to kick off Freedom Shield exercise amid warnings from North
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2023
SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. and South Korean militaries have set the date for large-scaled joint exercises with the U.N. and Combined Forces commands that North Korea last month likened to a declaration of war.
Freedom Shield is scheduled March 13-23, U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Col. Isaac Taylor said Friday at a news briefing. The exercise is intended to strengthen the combined defensive capabilities of both countries’ armed forces in a “changing security environment,” he said.
USFK and the South Korean military are also scheduled to hold Warrior Shield, a series of large-scale field exercises that include amphibious landing drills, concurrently with Freedom Shield, according to a Ministry of National Defense news release Friday.
Freedom Shield will involve scenarios that include “aggression” by North Korea, Taylor said. It will also include “lessons learned from current and ongoing conflicts,” according to a Friday news release from USFK.
The exercise will refine the combined defensive systems and tactics of both militaries, Taylor and South Korean army Col. Lee Sung-jun said at the briefing.
U.N. Command and Combined Forces Command are also committing troops, service members and civilian personnel to the exercise, according to USFK. USFK spokesman Wesley Hayes, citing “operational security reasons,” declined to comment on the number of troops taking part.
The South Korea, U.S. and U.N. Command alliance “remains at a high level of readiness and continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture to protect [South Korea] against any threat or adversary while implementing and maintaining prudent preventive control measures to protect the force,” Hayes said in an email Friday.
Meanwhile, both nations’ armed forces will “maintain a firm readiness posture” in the event North Korea acts provocatively, Lee said at the briefing.
“The [South Korean] military will not tolerate North Korea’s actions which threaten the life and safety of the people …, Lee said. “The [South Korea] and U.S. alliance will respond with overwhelming capability and firmly respond to North Korea’s such actions.”
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry last month described the upcoming military drills as an act of war. The communist regime for years has balked at the joint exercises and said they are a rehearsal for an invasion.
If the U.S. “persists in its hostile and provocative practices … it can be regarded as a declaration of war” against North Korea, according to a Feb. 24 Foreign Ministry statement in the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea’s state media reported on Feb. 23 that the regime tested four cruise missiles that could strike a target over 1,200 miles away. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff disputed the claim but did not provide specifics.
Three days earlier, North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles that landed in the East Sea, or Sea of Japan, its third such test so far this year.