South Korea and the United States began annual military drills despite North Korea’s threat of nuclear strikes in response to the exercises that it calls an invasion rehearsal.
The 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began are largely computer-simulated war games. The training involves 25,000 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the U.S. and South Korean militaries.
UFG features a number of exercises meant to improve response to fires, potential terrorist attacks, and the use of chemical or biological weapons in major South Korean cities.
North Korea sees the exercises as a veiled threat of war. The Kim regime has vowed to respond with the “strongest military counteraction” if it the operation is not canceled. In 2012, Kim Jong Un insisted that his troops be ready to engage in a “sacred war” in response to that year’s UFG.
North Korea has already boosted its war rhetoric because of the planned deployment of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea, which Washington and Seoul says is needed because of the increasing North Korean threats.