World Bulletin / News Desk
This year’s drills coincide with an already delicate situation as Seoul and Washington push ahead with a plan to deploy an anti-missile THAAD system following North Korea’s banned ballistic projectile test last month.
The Foal Eagle exercise will continue until the end of April alongside another drill named Key Resolve from March 13, according to Seoul’s defense ministry.
The U.S. is expected to demonstrate its force by sending powerful military assets on top of the nearly 30,000 American troops already stationed on the peninsula.
In a speech on the 98th anniversary of Korea’s March 1 Independence Movement, the South’s acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn cautioned that the allies are ready to cope with Pyongyang.
“We will strongly punish any provocations and threats from North Korea based on the solid Seoul-Washington alliance,” Hwang was quoted as saying by local news agency Yonhap as he stands in for scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye while her impeachment ruling is pending.
He also addressed Pyongyang’s alleged role in the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Malaysia on Feb. 13.
After Malaysian authorities determined that Kim Jong-nam was killed by a powerful nerve agent, VX, Hwang said in his speech that “the world is shocked” by the North’s use of a banned chemical weapon.
North Korea denies stockpiling chemical weapons and having any involvement in the apparent murder.
Seoul is seeking to punish Pyongyang for the death in addition to existing United Nations Security Council sanctions aimed at curbing the North’s development of nuclear weapons.