People rally to protest against the planned South Korea-U.S. military drills in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 13, 2022. The combined forces of South Korea and the United States on Tuesday launched annual military drills as planned, three days after liberal activists held a massive rally to protest against it.
In protest against the planned South Korea-U.S. war games, thousands of liberal activists gathered in central Seoul on Saturday. (NEWSIS via Xinhua)
SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The combined forces of South Korea and the United States on Tuesday launched annual military drills as planned, three days after liberal activists held a massive rally to protest against it.
The South Korea-led crisis management drills, designed to practice procedures to respond to possible pre-war crisis scenarios, kicked off earlier in the day.
The four-day preliminary drills will be conducted ahead of the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) exercise, a newly-named summertime military exercise between the two allies involving field maneuvers.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement on Tuesday that the UFS exercise, which is defensive in nature as it has been annually staged, would last from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has denounced the exercise as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.
The JCS noted that the UFS exercise would involve field maneuvers to ensure the condition of a stable push for the transition of wartime operational control through the assessment of the full operational capability.
South Korea and the United States have agreed upon the conditions-based transfer of wartime operational control over South Korean troops from Washington to Seoul.
South Korea's wartime command was handed over the U.S.-led UN command after the 1950-53 Korean War broke out. South Korea won back its peacetime operational control in 1994.
In protest against the planned South Korea-U.S. war games, thousands of liberal activists gathered in central Seoul on Saturday in advance of the Liberation Day on Monday to celebrate the 77th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from the Imperial Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.
The protesters took to the streets and chanted anti-U.S. slogans shouting, "Dissolve (South) Korea-U.S. alliance" and "This land is not a U.S. war base."
The activists, most of them dressed in raincoat, held in their hands various placards and signs criticizing the United States that read "No war rehearsal, No U.S." and "No (South) Korea-U.S.-Japan military cooperation."
Yang Kyung-soo, chief of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), a major umbrella labor union of South Korea, said at the protest rally that staging military exercises in preparation for a war is tantamount to intending to wage a war, according to local newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
The newspaper reported on Tuesday that some of the KCTU members had carried out anti-U.S. demonstrations earlier this month near U.S. military bases across the country demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed here.
It was known that about 28,500 U.S. soldiers were currently stationed in South Korea as the Korean War ended with armistice, not peace treaty.