The first annual Invincible Shield military drill will kick off on Friday and take place through November 10, aimed at "improving the allies’ capabilities of attacking North Korea’s major military and leadership facilities (if provoked) but also intercepting incoming fighters from the North," according to a South Korean Air Force spokesman, quoted by Yonhap news agency.
In preparation of the drills, the US Navy deployed its state-of-the-art SBX phased-array radar to the South Korean coast to gather data on North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities.
"[SBX] was sent to an undisclosed location off the Korean Peninsula for a one-month deployment after departing Hawaii in late September," a South Korean military official told Yonhap.
"It sailed back to its home port in late October."
North Korea has condemned the upcoming exercises, calling them "advance preparation for mounting a preemptive attack."
"If the aggressors and provocateurs dare mount a preemptive attack on the DPRK, they will not be able to escape a merciless, nuclear retaliatory strike of justice," North Korean daily Rodong Sinmun warned last month, according to the International Business Times.
North Korea has conducted a number of nuclear and ballistic missile tests over the last year. On September 9, Pyongyang detonated a miniaturized nuclear bomb, raising the stakes on the Korean peninsula and marking a major step forward in the North’s ability to launch a nuclear attack.
These tests resulted in harsh new sanctions from the United Nations, as well as criticism from a number of countries, including Pyongyang’s allies.
The South has taken these developments as an opportunity to boost its defensive capabilities. Seoul and Washington have formalized an agreement to install a Terminal High Altitude Defense (THAAD) missile system on the peninsula, despite objections from both China and Russia, who claim that the system could be used offensively and places their own national security at risk.
"Through the exercise, the three countries will be able to bolster the interoperability of their military arsenals and joint operational capabilities in the event of conflict breaking out on the Korean Peninsula," the South Korean Air Force spokesman said.