The United States and South Korea are set to hold massive war games on the Korean peninsula starting Monday; conducting a joint drill that simulates a full-scale conflict with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and raising fears the operation could escalate tensions in the region.
The war games, which take place at least twice a year, commence August 21 and span ten days.
Military analysts predict the drills could provoke a response from the North, including another ballistic missile launch or the communist nation’s sixth nuclear test.
“Over the course of the next two weeks I expect tensions to escalate,” said one analyst from the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is always a sensitive issue, but it is more hair-trigger as the North Koreans are very sensitive to the likely additional nuclear-capable aircraft flyovers.”
American officials claim the joint operation is “defensive in nature,” and is necessary to ensure the US military’s preparedness in the region, especially with tensions on the Korean peninsula at an all-time high.
North Korean state-run media said the military exercises would “further drive the situation on the Korean peninsula into a catastrophe.”
The massive war games involve 30,000 American soldiers and over 50,000 South Korean service members, and includes civil agencies and first responders around the country. The drill simulates an unprovoked attack by North Korean using conventional, chemical, and nuclear weapons.