70 Years Of US-Korea Mutual Defense Treaty, US, ROK To Commemorate With ‘Largest-Ever’ Live-Fire Drills

South Korea and the United States are gearing up to kick off their largest joint live-fire drills to date in celebration of the 70th anniversary of their enduring alliance, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced. 

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The event, slated to take place later this month, will showcase the strength and synergy of the Korean and American armed forces. The two countries will conduct five rounds of joint military exercises from May 25 to June 15. 

It will take place at the Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, located about 52 kilometers northeast of Seoul, according to a statement from Seoul’s MoD. 

In what is being hailed as the ‘largest-ever joint military exercise,’ this year’s drills between Seoul and Washington will also coincide with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the South Korean military. 

The joint exercise will feature an impressive display of military might and coordination between the two allies. This is a significant milestone, as both countries are boosting their cooperation in the face of the growing North Korean threat. 

US and South Korean fighters are flying over South Korea during a joint military drill on September 18, 2017 (South Korean Defense Ministry)

Among the notable assets set to participate in the exercise are the formidable F-35A stealth fighters, known for their advanced capabilities. In addition, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will demonstrate their versatility, while the K2 tanks will also showcase their enhanced mobility and firepower. 

The drill will also witness the deployment of the Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers, capable of firing different caliber missiles and rockets. 

Since 1977, there have been over ten notable firepower demonstrations, comprising both joint exercises and drills conducted solely by South Korea. These exercises have served as prominent showcases of military capabilities over the years.

The last demonstration of this scale occurred in 2017, involving the mobilization of 48 units from both South Korea and the United States. Over 2,000 troops participated in the exercise. 

In commemoration of the momentous anniversary, South Korea is embarking on a program to celebrate and honor the occasion. 

As part of these celebrations, South Korea has expressed its intention to host this year’s Armed Forces Day ceremony, with the inclusion of the US Forces Korea, in late September.

South Korean F-15K jets
File Image: South Korean F-15K Jets

Seventy Years Of The ROK-US Alliance

The South Korea-US alliance was established 70 years ago after the Korean War. The foundation of the alliance can be traced back to October 1, 1953, with the signing of the Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty. 

As mentioned, this pivotal treaty was established in the aftermath of the Korean War (1950-1953), a conflict that witnessed the loss of approximately 37,000 American lives who fought alongside their South Korean counterparts.

The Korean War commenced on June 25, 1950, when North Korea launched a surprise invasion of South Korea. In response to this aggression, the United States became the first foreign country to intervene in the conflict and assist South Korea. 

The US intervention took place just two days after the outbreak of hostilities. The post-war treaty, the Korea-US Mutual Defense Treaty, established a crucial commitment between the two nations. 

The treaty stipulated that in the event of an external armed attack on either South Korea or the United States, both countries would provide mutual aid to defend against the aggression. 

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South Korea’s K239 Chunmoo multiple-launch rocket system. Photo: Hanwha Defense

This mutual defense clause became the foundation of the continued military presence of the United States on the Korean Peninsula.

In addition to military aid aimed at strengthening South Korea’s defense capabilities against North Korea, the United States also extended philanthropic support to assist in reconstructing the war-torn country. 

Recognizing the immense destruction caused by the Korean War, the United States assisted South Korea in various forms to aid in its recovery and rebuilding efforts.

The partnership with the United States also played a pivotal role in the economic development of South Korea in the subsequent decades. 

On April 25, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the United States to commemorate the 70th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries.

A notable highlight of President Yoon’s visit was the signing of the “Washington Declaration,” which focused on nuclear deterrence strategy. 

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup recently emphasized the significance of a new security document between Seoul and Washington, describing it as a “second” mutual defense treaty between the allies. 

Nevertheless, this cooperation reflects an enhanced commitment by the United States to deter potential threats and bolster the security of its Asian ally.