South Korea and the United States conducted joint military training aimed at detecting and removing North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction in the event of conflict, amid reports that Pyongyang continues to prepare for a massive military parade.
The South Korean military said on Thursday that the two allies had recently carried out their regular “Warrior Strike” exercise near U.S. bases in the nation.
The exercise involves hundreds of South Korean and U.S. troops practicing the removal of a WMD by infiltrating a mock-up facility located in an underground tunnel.
Last May, the war game included a ship-to-shore air assault involving South Korea’s Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship, the largest ship in South Koreas navy.
This year, however, the exercise was reportedly held on a smaller scale, which observers believe is due to the current sensitivity of inter-Korean relations ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
North Korea has continuously called on the South to halt its military drills with the U.S., namely the annual springtime exercises the “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” which gather tens of thousands of troops on land, at sea, and in the air.
Earlier this month, at President Moon Jae-in’s request, Seoul and Washington agreed to postpone the two drills to defuse tensions with North Korea during the period of the PyeongChang Olympics.
Last week, South Korean and U.S. officials confirmed the drills will proceed as usual this spring though they did not disclose any dates or the scope of the exercises.
The two governments are reportedly considering holding the drills in early April.
Meanwhile, North Korea appears to be continuing preparations for a military parade which is likely to be held next Thursday to mark the founding date of its army.
According to ‘38 North’ (a website devoted to informed analysis of North Korea), satellite images from Sunday show at least 12,000 troops and 110 military equipment and vehicles were deployed at what appeared to be a rehearsal for the parade.
The U.S.-based monitoring site noted that there were no signs of a “tent city” in the training grounds of near Mirim Airport, located on the outskirts of Pyongyang.
This indicates the ceremony may be held on a smaller scale compared to past military parades, the website suggested.