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US, SKorean Troops Begin Drills        08/21 06:15

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- U.S. and South Korean troops kicked off their 
annual drills Monday that come after President Donald Trump and North Korea 
exchanged warlike rhetoric in the wake of the North's two intercontinental 
ballistic missile tests last month.

   The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills are largely computer-simulated war games 
held every summer and have drawn furious responses from North Korea, which 
views them as an invasion rehearsal. Pyongyang's state media on Sunday called 
this year's drills a "reckless" move that could trigger the "uncontrollable 
phase of a nuclear war."

   Despite the threat, U.S. and South Korean militaries launched this year's 
11-day training on Monday morning as scheduled. The exercise involves 17,500 
American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the U.S. 
military command in South Korea and Seoul's Defense Ministry.

   No field training like live-fire exercises or tank maneuvering is involved 
in the Ulchi drills, in which alliance officers sit at computers to practice 
how they engage in battles and hone their decision-making capabilities. The 
allies have said the drills are defensive in nature.

   South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said Monday that North Korea must not 
use the drills as a pretext to launch fresh provocation, saying the training is 
held regularly because of repeated provocations by North Korea.

   North Korea typically responds to South Korea-U.S. military exercises with 
weapons tests and a string of belligerent rhetoric. During last year's Ulchi 
drills, North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile that flew 
about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in the longest flight by that type of weapon. 
Days after the drills, the North carried out its fifth and biggest nuclear test 
to date.

   Last month North Korea test-launched two ICBMs at highly lofted angles, and 
outside experts say those missiles can reach some U.S. parts like Alaska, Los 
Angeles or Chicago if fired at normal, flattened trajectories. Analysts say it 
would be only a matter of time for the North to achieve its long-stated goal of 
acquiring a nuclear missile that can strike anywhere in the United States.

   Earlier this month, President Donald Trump pledged to answer North Korean 
aggression with "fire and fury." North Korea, for its part, threatened to 
launch missiles toward the American territory of Guam before its leader Kim 
Jong Un backed off saying he would first watch how Washington acts before going 
ahead with the missile launch plans.


(KA)

 
 
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