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U.S., South Korea Begin Joint Military Exercises Amid Pyongyang Hostility

South Korean soldiers take up positions during an antiterror drill on the sidelines of a South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, at a subway station in Seoul on August 19.

U.S. and South Korean troops have begun their annual military exercises amid continued angry words from North Korea.

The joint maneuvers, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, started early on August 21 and will run through August 31. The drills will involve computer simulations designed to prepare for war with nuclear-capable North Korea.

The official North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun on August 20 assailed the exercises, calling them an "expression of enmity" and saying they could trigger the "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war."

Some 17,500 U.S. service members and 50,000 South Korean soldiers are participating in the exercises, along with 3,000 troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

Officials said there will be no field training, such as live-fire exercises or tank maneuvers.

The drills will feature soldiers at computers practicing how they engage in battles and developing their decision-making capabilities.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said on August 21 that the drills are defensive in nature and that Pyongyang should not use them as a pretext to launch fresh provocations.

Tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula, especially since North Korea recently test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that experts say could reach U.S. territory.

North Korea’s missile program is banned by United Nations resolutions.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP