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    South Korea and the US will conduct joint military drills at a similar level to last year’s exercises, Seoul’s military said Friday, contradicting rumblings that they may limit maneuvers so as to not rile North Korea.

    Set to begin Monday and complete August 31, Pyongyang views movements like the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises as dress rehearsals for invading the communist nation.

    Yonhap News Agency quoted a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official telling a press briefing, that "This year's military drills will be similar in size to those conducted last year." 

    An official with the South’s Ministry of National Defense said the two militaries have not considered changing the size of the drills.

    Some 50,000 South Korean service members took part in last year’s UFG exercise, which brought about 25,000 US troops, including roughly 2,500 personnel from the US Pacific Command and the mainland.

    There will be additional troops participating from Canada, Denmark, Australia, Colombia, the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

    Provocative language has been in the air between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the US, with US President Donald Trump trading threats with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

    Tensions escalated in July after Pyongyang conducted two intercontinental ballistic (ICBM) missile tests and claimed the projectiles are capable of reaching the US mainland and carrying a nuclear weapon, an assessment some regional and Western analysts concur with

    Earlier this month, the DPRK said it would develop a plan to launch four ballistic missiles at Guam and present it to Kim by mid-August, but the leader backed off the plan Tuesday after US officials began encouraging diplomatic talks and eased off warmongering rhetoric.

    Kim said after he "examined the plan for a long time" and "discussed" it with commanding officers Monday, he would continue to watch Washington’s actions before making the “important” decision to respond to the US’ "extremely dangerous reckless actions" on the Korean Peninsula. 

    The state-run Korean Central News Agency also quoted Kim on Monday warning Washington about the upcoming drills. 

    If "the planned firepower demonstration is carried out as the US is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks, underlining the need to be always ready for launching into action anytime our Party decides."

    The Hwasong 14 is North Korea’s alleged ICBM.

    There are a number of high-profile weapons systems present in the US territory, including the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and strategic bombers.

    The Pentagon released a statement saying, "UFG is computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula."

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    joint drills, joint military exercises, South Korean Armed Forces, US Armed Forces, South Korea, United States
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