Ulchi Freedom Guardian involves 17,500 US and almost 50,000 South Korean soldiers. For North Korea, they are a rehearsal for "invasion".
Seoul (AsiaNews) – The United States and South Korea kicked off Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), their annual fall joint military exercises. Some 17,500 US and almost 50,000 South Korean soldiers are involved.
Although the drills have been held on an annual basis, North Korea is resentful and slammed them as “pouring gasoline on fire".
The exercises are defensive in nature, but for the North they a rehearsal for "invasion".
Over the past weeks, tensions in the Korean peninsula reached high levels with Washington threatening "fire and fury" and Pyongyang planning a missile attack against Guam.
The war of words slowed down with the intervention of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said that any military action on the peninsula could not take place without his consent.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also cooled down the talk of war, whilst Kim Jong-un put on hold his attack against Guam.
North Korea’s official newspaper Rodon Sinmun yesterday said the exercises threatened the peninsula, and could lead to an "uncontrollable phase of nuclear war."
Conversely, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement that "The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drills are the allies' annual and defensive exercises. We are urging North Korea to stop its provocations and return to the negotiation table as soon as possible”.