Tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops yesterday began a military exercise simulating an all-out North Korean attack, as Pyongyang matched Seoul in resuming a loudspeaker propaganda campaign across their heavily fortified border.
The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, which is to run until Aug. 28, is largely computer-simulated, but still involves 50,000 Korean and 30,000 US soldiers.
The drill plays out a full-scale invasion scenario by nuclear-armed North Korea, and both Seoul and Washington insist it remains purely defensive in nature.
Pyongyang views Ulchi-Freedom Guardian — along with other annual South Korea-US drills — as willfully provocative and had threatened the “strongest military counteraction” should this year’s exercise go ahead.
“Such large-scale joint military exercises ... are little short of a declaration of war,” the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which oversees cross-border issues, said last week.
Military tensions are already running high along the Korean Peninsula after South Korea blamed North Korea for landmine blasts that maimed members of a border patrol earlier this month.
The South retaliated by resuming propaganda broadcasts, using loudspeakers that had lain silent for more than a decade.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the mine blasts and threatened “indiscriminate” strikes against South Korean border units unless the broadcasts were halted immediately.
However, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense yesterday reported that Pyongyang had resumed its own loudspeaker propaganda campaign at a site on the eastern section of the border.
The two Koreas had blasted propaganda messages at each other for years before the practice was discontinued by mutual agreement in 2004 during a period of rapprochement.
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