South Korea and the United States on Monday began a large annual military exercise to prepare for an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean military said, following a series of cruise missile firings by North Korea since late January.

In the Freedom Shield joint exercise to be held for 11 days through March 14, the two allies will conduct 48 field drills, double the number last year, given North Korea's rapidly advancing nuclear and missile technology, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The focus of the exercise is to neutralize Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats by using forces in the land, sea, air, cyber and space domains, the JCS and U.S. Forces Korea said in a briefing last week.

The drill will be based on scenarios that include detecting and shooting down cruise missiles, which North Korea has repeatedly launched since late January, according to the South Korean military.

Large-scale military drills were halted under the administration of former President Moon Jae In, which prioritized improvement in the inter-Korean relationship. But President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May 2022, resumed the Freedom Shield exercise last year after a five-year hiatus.

In addition to South Korea and the United States, a member country of the United Nations Command overseeing the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, 11 other members of the command including Australia, Britain and France will also participate in the exercise, according to the multinational force.

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