This week, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States launched their largest combined military exercises to date that will focus on striking North Korea’s leadership and key facilities amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The ROK-United States Combined Forces Command’s annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military drills began on March 7 and are slated to last until April.
“Key Resolve, slated for March 7-18, highlights the longstanding and enduring partnership and friendship between the two nations and their combined commitment to the defense of the ROK and regional stability,” according to a United States Forces Korea (USFK) press release.
“Foal Eagle training also starts March 7 and will continue until April 30. The approximately eight week-long Foal Eagle exercise implements a series of several joint and combined field training operations conducted by CFC and USFK component commands (ground, air, naval, and special operations).”
Around 17,000 U.S. troops and more than 300,000 ROK military personnel will participate in the exercises. “We (the military) say this is the largest-ever in terms of not only the number of troops, but in terms of equipment, supplies and weapons that will be utilized in the drill,” a ROK military official told The Korea Herald.
U.S.-ROK forces will also for the first time carry the OPLAN 5015, a classified war plan signed last year that includes surgical strikes against North Korea’s nuclear, missile and command and control facilities. It also specifically calls for “decapitation” raids by Special Forces to neutralize North Korea’s senior leadership, according to press reports.
“The focus of the exercises will be on hitting North Korea’s key facilities precisely,” a ROK military official told Yonhap. A U.S. military spokesperson refused to divulge additional details. “Alliance operational plans are classified and we aren’t authorized to discuss them for operations security reasons.”
North Korea’s National Defense Commission’s response to the annual drill was a promise that it would launch an “all-out offensive” that will also include missile strikes on the U.S. mainland:
As the joint military drill is regarded as a blatant nuclear provocation against the sovereignty of the republic (North Korea), our military counteractions will be a preemptive and aggressive nuclear attack.(…)
We have a military operation plan of our style to liberate south Korea and strike the U.S. mainland ratified by our dignified supreme headquarters. (…) If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment.
North Korea has issued similar statements in the years before.
“The United Nations Command has informed the Korean People’s Army in North Korea through their Panmunjom mission about Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercise dates and the non-provocative nature of this training,” the USFK press release states.