Russian expert says South Korea, US hold drills only to scare Pyongyang

South Korea and the United States hold annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military drills to scare North Korean rather than trigger an armed conflict, told Director of the Russian Strategy for Asia Center of the Institute of Economics at Russia’s Academy of Sciences Georgy Toloraya.

When commenting on the South Korean-US joint military drills, which began on Monday, the expert said that “the parties have been trying to scare each other but no one wants to fight a war just yet.” However, in Toloraya’s words, it does not exclude the possibility of an accidental error that could escalate the situation on the Korean Peninsula. “Without a doubt, such military drills raise the possibility of an accident or mistake that could lead to an unintended conflict,” he stressed.

“Despite the fact that such drills have been held regularly for decades and have actually become a routine, it is only natural that every time they make North Korean nervous,” Toloraya said. “Of course, it would be better if the drills were less aggressive, not so openly aimed against North Korea, and ended the sooner the better,” he added.

The combined military exercise between South Korea and the United States was launched on Monday. According to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, these are defense drills not aimed at raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean Defense Ministry said that the exercise involved around 50,000 troops – the same number as it involved last year. As many as 17,500 US troops are participating in the drills – around 7,500 less than in 2016.