1227 GMT February 19, 2020
Four drills, involving tanks, howitzers, attack helicopters and fighter bombers, will be held this month with the participation of some 2,000 South Korean and US troops in the city of Pocheon, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the border with North Korea, the ministry announced on Wednesday, Press TV reported.
South Korea says the exercises are meant to display the two countries’ combat readiness against North Korea’s ‘provocations,’ including a recent landmine explosion attributed to Pyongyang.
The first exercise is set to take place later on Wednesday, and the last one is expected at the end of August.
“This will show our preparedness to retaliate against any provocative acts, including such a treacherous act of aggression as the landmine attack,” a ministry spokesman said in reference to an August 4 incident in which two South Korean soldiers were maimed after hitting a landmine while patrolling the inter-Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ).
On Monday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said investigations showed that North Korean soldiers had sneaked across the border to plant three landmines on the southern side of the four-kilometer (2.5 mile)-wide DMZ.
The new drills will be separate from the annual “Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” the joint US-South Korean exercises that will start next Monday and last for two weeks.
Tensions between the two Koreas run high over the South’s annual war games with the US, with Pyongyang censuring the military drills as provocative rehearsals for invasion.
North and South Korea remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace deal.