S Korea, US begin military exercises

S Korea, US begin military exercises

SEOUL - Reuters
S Korea, US begin military exercises South Korean and U.S. forces began computer-simulated military exercises on Aug. 21 amid tension over North Korea's weapons programmes, while a report it has earned millions of dollars in exports is likely to raise doubt about the impact of sanctions. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to increase tension on the peninsula.

"There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature," Moon told cabinet ministers.

"North Korea should not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace nor should they engage in provocations that would worsen the situation, using (the exercise) as an excuse," he said.

The joint U.S.-South Korean drills last until Aug. 31 and involve computer simulations designed to prepare for war with a nuclear-capable North Korea.

The United States also describes them as "defensive in nature", a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a "deceptive mask".

"It's to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK," said Michelle Thomas, a U.S. military spokeswoman, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

North Korea views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to show its anger over drills in the past.

China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has urged both countries to scrap the exercises. Russia has also asked for the drills to stop but the U.S. has not backed down.

There will be no field training during the current exercise, according to U.S. Forces Korea.