Tensions have flared up between North Korea and South Korea after both sides fired missiles near each other’s waters. The firing resulted in the most number of missiles launched by the North side in a single day. According to analysts, North Korea’s missile firing comes as an apparent response to the Vigilant Storm drills, which involve around 240 South Korean and US warplanes flying missions around the clock. Notably, out of the numerous missiles launched by the North, one is reported to have landed in South Korean territory.
An AFP report quoted South Korea’s air force as saying that the duration of drills will be extended to “maintain ironclad security joint posture” in the face of North Korean aggression.
What are these drills and why are they taking place?
The military drills, which were earlier scheduled to end on November 4, are largely air-based and will test out scenarios of mock attacks 24 hours a day for most of the week. According to the US Air Force, these drills are termed the Vigilant Storm and it sees the participation of over 240 aircrafts and thousands of service members. These drills were a regular occurrence between US and Seoul but in the last few years, they were scaled down mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic and in an attempt to restart diplomatic talks with the North to denuclearise Pyongyang.
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While the peace talks did garner good results initially, they did not last for long. The talks collapsed in 2019 and both the sides were facing each other, again.
What is South Korea saying?
The complex annual exercises take “months of planning and preparation”, South Korea’s air force said, the AFP reported. This year, about 240 American and South Korean warplanes will conduct around 1,600 sorties, which is “the largest number ever” for these drills, it added. The exercises “strengthen the operational and tactical capabilities of combined air operations”, the report further quoted the air force as saying.
North Korean stance
Analysts said that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is not in favour of the allied drills and particularly dislikes the involvement of US stealth fighters, Reuters reported. “North Korea really does not like these large combined air exercises, especially since they employ F-35s that can be used for decapitation strikes against the regime and are very difficult for North Korean air defences to pick up,” the report quoted Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, as saying.
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The Indian Express has quoted a report by The Korea Times which stated a senior member of North Korea’s Workers’ Party as saying, “If the US and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history.”
Earlier today, the South Korean military claimed that North Korea had fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) but it failed mid-flight.
With agency inputs.