South Korea — America’s annual joint military exercises with South Korea always frustrate North Korea.
The war games set to begin Monday may hold more potential to provoke than ever, given President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threats and Pyongyang’s as-yet-unpursued plan to launch missiles close to Guam.
Will the allies keep it low-key, or focus on projecting strength? An examination of this year’s drills and how the North might respond to them:
THE WAR GAMES
The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, which will run through Aug. 31, will be the first large-scale military exercise between the allies since North Korea successfully flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and threatened to bracket Guam with intermediate range ballistic missile fire earlier this month.
Despite some calls to postpone or drastically modify drills to ease the hostility on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. and South Korean military officials say that the long-scheduled exercises will go ahead as planned.
The drills, which began in the 1970s and will involve 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers this year, consist mainly of computer simulations aimed at honing joint-decision making and planning and improving command operations.
About 25,000 U.S. service members joined last year’s UFG drills. An official from U.S. Forces Korea, who didn’t want to be named citing office rules, said that the number of participating American troops can marginally change depending on how training events are designed and that the lower number this year doesn’t represent an effort to downsize the drills.