U.S. Families in South Korea Practice Fleeing From North Korea Military Strike

The U.S. is to practice evacuating American civilians from South Korea amid concerns that escalating tensions between the America and North Korea may have brought them to the brink of conflict.

The drill is aimed at preparing U.S. “service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,” U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said in a statement.

USFK stressed that the exercises were routine and not being held in response to recent events. However, relations between the U.S. and its regional allies and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's regime are the worst in decades, with President Donald Trump and Kim engaged in a spiraling exchange of insults and threats of destruction.

Retired U.S. General Barry McCaffrey warned Sunday that war may come as soon as 2018.

"The current language out of the administration, that lack of a diplomatic and serious engagement strategy, in my view, has us sliding toward war by next summer,” the retired general told NBC.

US-South-Korea-carry-out-military-drill. U.S. and South Korean Marines participate in a U.S.–South Korea joint landing operation drill in March 2015. Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The exercise is known as Courageous Channel and will take place between October 23 and October 27.

"Although not directly tied to current geopolitical events, our forces must be ready in all areas to include systems and personnel annually exercised in Courageous Channel," USFK chief Gen. Vincent K. Brooks was quoted as saying.

"This training is as important to readiness as our other routine events, such as tank gunnery and fighter-wing exercises," he continued.

Trump called Kim “rocket man” following a series of ballistic missile tests by North Korea, and at the United Nations General Assembly in September threatened to “totally destroy” that country. North Korea continued its harsh anti-U.S. rhetoric Sunday, calling Trump a "war merchant and strangler of peace" in a government statement carried by the KCNA news agency. 

After North Korea launched a missile over Japan in September, Trump announced on Twitter that he would allow Japan and South Korea increased access to U.S. weapons.

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Monday that USFK rarely makes the date of Courageous Channel exercises public before they are conducted.

The exercises will involve readiness briefings, document and passport inspection, roster updates and limited rehearsals, said USFK. It did not disclose how many people would take part in the exercises but said they would not differ significantly from those conducted in previous years.

“Nonparticipants across the peninsula can expect little to no disruption of daily activities on and around military installations,” it said.

The U.S. is also to begin a 10-day joint naval exercises program with South Korea Monday. Described as a maritime counter special operations exercise by the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, the exercises will include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided-missile destroyers, units from the South Korean Air Force and Navy, and the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, according to a U.S. statement.