The Facts

  • On Mon., the US and South Korea began the Ulchi Freedom Shield (UFS) – reportedly their biggest joint military exercises since 2017 – amid mounting tensions with the North.

  • The full-scale drills, which will take place until Sept. 1, are expected to involve thousands of troops, warplanes, warships, and tanks. According to the South's defense ministry, there will be at least 11 field training programs.

The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Seoul and Washington have for four years demonstrated goodwill toward Pyongyang in the hopes of creating a conducive environment for disarmament talks. However, as North Korea has failed to make good on its promises – resuming its missile tests and working on its nuclear program – this course correction is greatly needed to restore their readiness for an attack from the North.

Establishment-critical narrative

While Washington was truly committed to de-escalating tensions with North Korea, Pyongyang responded positively, halting missile tests and demolishing several testing sites. This changed when the US began to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, posing an existential threat to the DPRK. The UFS is simply a provocative drill that will only escalate tensions even more.

Nerd narrative

There's a 17% chance that North Korea and South Korea will be recognized as a single sovereign state before 2045, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

Establishment split



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