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S. Korea, US start military drill despite North threats

/ 09:06 AM August 18, 2014
Ulchi Freedom Guardian South Korea

South Korean soldiers wearing gas masks stand on a street during an anti-terror drill on the sidelines of South Korea-US joint military exercises, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, in central Seoul on August 21, 2013. AFP FILE PHOTO

SEOUL – South Korea and the United States on Monday launched an annual military drill, Seoul’s defense ministry said, despite condemnation by North Korea which has threatened a “merciless” retaliatory strike.

The beginning of the “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” exercise, which will last until August 29, came as Pope Francis led a mass for inter-reconciliation in Seoul at the end of the five-day trip to South Korea.

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Although largely played out on computers, the drill involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US soldiers and is aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, this year’s drill will, for the first time, simulate the response to a nuclear attack threat, using a strategy of “tailored” deterrence developed last year at annual South Korea-US defense talks.

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North Korea has repeatedly called for the exercise to be cancelled, and last week its military joint chiefs of staff threatened to “mercilessly open the strongest… pre-emptive strike” if it goes ahead.

South Korean officials said its military would be on a heightened state of alert during the exercise.

“If the North commits a provocative act, we would retaliate strongly”, a high-ranking military official told journalists.

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TAGS: News, South korea, u.s., war exercise, world
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