DPRK Provocations Likely During U.S.-ROK Military Exercises

Korea Chair Snapshot

The U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command is slated to begin the annual Foal Eagle (FE), which started today, March 1 and will run through the end of April.  This will be followed concurrently by the Key Resolve (KR) exercise from March 13 to 23.
  • The exercises involve ground, air, naval and special operations designed to evaluate and improve joint coordination and overall readiness of the military forces in defense of the peninsula.
  • Approximately 17,000 U.S. troops and personnel will participate with South Korean forces in the training exercises this year.
  • The U.S. is expected to send strategic assets to the region to participate in the exercises, as well as conduct exercises involving the simulated use of a Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missile system.
  • A Beyond Parallel study predicts that military provocations by North Korea are likely during the period of the exercises.
  • The U.S.-ROK exercises do not themselves provoke North Korea. Beyond Parallel found that the 4-8 week window prior to the exercise period is the best indicator of North Korean behavior during exercises. When U.S.-DPRK relations during this window are coded as negative then the exercise period will see a high level of provocations.
  • The North Korean ballistic missile test on February 12 and the killing of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia with the nerve agent VX a day later on February 13 promises a restive DPRK during KR/FE.
Photo credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
Victor Cha
Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair