Arab and international From 2017-08-21 at 09:18 (Baghdad time)
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South Korea and the United States on Monday began their joint military exercise, which Pyongyang had warned in advance that it would lead to escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean military announced the start of the exercise, which involves tens of thousands of soldiers and bears the name of "Ulci Freedom Guard" (Olchi Freedom Guardian), and rely heavily on computer simulated operations and should last two weeks.
Washington and Sol say the exercises are defensive, but Pyongyang sees it as a provocative attempt to invade its territory. Each year they loom with military reprisals.
The 2017 exercises take place in a climate of intense tension and fierce verbal warfare between Washington and Pyongyang.
The exercises, held annually since 1976, bear the name of a general who defended a former Korean kingdom in the face of Chinese invaders.
Up to 50,000 South Korean soldiers and 17,500 US troops are taking part in the exercises, compared with 25,000 last year.
South Korean newspapers said Washington also plans to abandon its plan to deploy two aircraft carriers near the peninsula as part of the exercises.
But Defense Secretary James Matisse denied Sunday that Washington had sought to allay Pyongyang's fears of a reduction in the number of soldiers involved in the exercises. He said on the plane, which he had taken to Amman, that the number had been reduced "deliberately to achieve the training objectives."
Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Command of the US Navy, arrived in South Korea on Sunday to follow up on the exercises and discuss the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs.