ROK-US joint exercises begin, with NK firing 2 missiles

March 2, 2015
North Korea's tactical rocket firing on July 10, 2014. (Yonhap file photo)

North Korea’s tactical rocket firing on July 10, 2014. (Yonhap file photo)

By Kang Seung-woo

Seoul and Washington kicked off their annual joint Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises Monday as part of efforts to improve the combined forces’ military capabilities to deter threats from North Korea.

In response, Pyongyang test-fired two mid-range missiles into the East Sea. The North, which routinely calls the exercises a rehearsal for invasion, tested some 90 missiles on eight occasions in response to last year’s joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.

Key Resolve, a command-post exercise that is scheduled to run through March 13, features some 10,000 South Korean and 8,600 American troops. Foal Eagle, a series of joint and combined field training exercises running through April 24, will mobilize 200,000 South Korean and 3,700 American soldiers.

The two allies plan to test plans to counter potential conflicts with the North.

“The tailored deterrence strategy against North Korean nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction threats will be employed for the exercises,” said a military officer.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced that the North fired two mid-range missiles that traveled 495 and 493 kilometers, respectively, from its western port city of Nampo between 6:32 and 6:41 a.m.

According to the defense ministry, the missiles are presumed to be Scud-C models based on their range.

“Viewing the missiles as the North’s provocation against the joint military exercises, the military remains vigilant against any additional test-firing of missiles, while strengthening its readiness,” the JCS said.

The exercises have always drawn fierce rhetoric and promises of catastrophe from the secretive regime, and this year is no exception.

“The countermeasure of justice by our military and people will step up furthermore in order to shatter the joint drills,” the North’s foreign ministry said later in the day.

The leaders of the North Korean People’s Army also swore “merciless strikes.”

“The only means to cope with the aggression and war is neither dialogue nor peace. They should be dealt with only by merciless strikes,” it said.

In response to the North’s belligerent rhetoric, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing, “Our military squarely warns the North against its reckless provocations and will respond in a stern and strong manner based upon a staunch combined defense posture.”