The United States and South Korea began annual Command Post Exercises on Monday after North Korea expressed opposition to the training last week. File Photo by Yonhap
Aug. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea could be on guard as it begins joint Combined Command Post Training with the United States, after North Korea's Kim Yo Jong called the drills, "preliminary exercises for nuclear war."
Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday the annual exercises will be conducted for nine days and conclude on Aug. 26.
Authorities said that the Command Post Exercises, focusing on battle readiness, is to take place only with "core personnel" and without field training citing COVID-19 concerns, South Korean news service News 1 reported.
The scaled-down exercises are going ahead despite warnings from North Korea. The sister of Kim Jong Un has said the drills are "dangerous war exercises" and that they justify "10 million times" North Korea's decision to "steadily develop national defense capabilities."
Pyongyang also took other measures last week, including disconnecting a restored military communication hotline. The hotline was reopened in July.
Analysts in the South said Seoul should be on alert for potential military provocations. North Korea could test a new weapon system it has been preparing since the Eighth Party Congress in January. Pyongyang also could launch a ballistic missile from a submarine, analysts said, according to News 1.
Others, like Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow at state-owned Korea Institute for National Unification in the South, said that North Korea is "highly likely" to engage in a low-level provocation, such as threats to suspend inter-Korean dialogue, rather than engage in a "high-intensity armed demonstration," the report said.
North Korea issued a warning on Saturday.
North Korean Ambassador to China Ri Ryong Nam told Chinese state tabloid Global Times that the joint U.S.-South Korea exercises are "unwelcome" and that Washington and Seoul will "definitely pay the price."
Ri also accused the United States of attempting to overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is open to diplomatic talks with North Korea.