South Korea and the United States on Monday morning kicked of their annual joint military drills amid continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (file photo)
Source: Press TV
The US and South Korean militaries have launched their major military drills despite North Korea's warnings that the exercises could lead to an "all-out war.”
The 11-day Key Resolve/Foal Eagle drills are the first regularly scheduled joint drills between Seoul and Washington since a North Korean artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, which left two South Korean marines and two civilians dead.
Pyongyang has denounced the drills as a provocative move and a pretext to invade North Korea, while the US and South Korean officials say the exercise is defensive in nature, AFP reported.
The exercises focus on raising the allies' ability to defend against small, sudden attacks by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said the Combined Forces Command, adding that the drills are aimed at strengthening the allies' readiness against all potential threats.
However, the North's military on Sunday threatened to retaliate against the drills with a full-scale military attack that would turn Seoul into a "sea of fire.”
"If the aggressors launch provocation for a 'local war', the world will witness unprecedented all-out counteraction on the part of the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea)," the North Korean military said.
"It will also see such merciless counteraction as engulfing Seoul in sea of flames, whereby to smash every move for confrontation with unimaginable strategy and tactics."
A total of 12,300 US troops and some 200,000 service members, including reservists from South Korea, will participate in the joint military drills, according to officials.
In 2010, tension on the Korean Peninsula reached its highest level since the 1950s' Korean War.
On March 2, the 1,200-ton South Korean warship, Cheonan, sank near the inter-Korea maritime border, resulting in the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors.
Though Seoul accuses Pyongyang of involvement in the sinking of its warship, the latter rejects the claim.