Fresh Threats From Pyongyang As Joint Military Exercise Begins

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Anchor: The U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has dismissed speculation that a reduction in U.S. troops participating in a joint exercise with South Korea is because of tension with the North.

North Korea has long criticised the annual military exercises the U.S. conducts with South Korea, regarding them as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North.

North Korea has long accused the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills and larger springtime joint exercises of raising tensions and has offered to freeze its nuclear and missile tests if they are suspended.

Pyongyang's state media on Sunday called this year's drills a "reckless" move that could trigger the "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

North Korean news agency KCNA has since reported that Australia's allegiance to the United States and its decision to take part in a military drill in South Korea was a "suicidal act".

"The Ulchi exercise is a defensive drill conducted annually". He also cautioned North Korea to "not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace" nor to use the exercises as an excuse to engage in provocations.

"The rhetoric out of North Korea regarding the exercise is similar to what they have done in the past and continue to do with each joint exercise between South Korea, the United States and its allies", according to a statement from the Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense on Monday.

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise began on Monday and involves more than 17,000 American troops along with small contingents from Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

HU: The U.S. has actually scaled back the number of troops taking part this year by about 8,000.

"North Korea must understand its repeated provocations are what is forcing South Korea and the U.S. to conduct the joint defensive drills, which in turn, keeps the vicious cycle going", Moon told a Cabinet meeting.

It comes on the heels of North Korea testing two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, and an announcement that it was examining a plan to possibly bracket Guam with missiles - a plan that is on hold.

GREENE: Yeah. So what exactly is North Korea saying about these exercises?

"This right now is an exercise to make certain that we're ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there", he added.

HU: Highly unlikely. It's really considered a last resort.

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