Kim Jong-un threatens South Korea with nuclear 'annihilation'
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Dubbed the Ulchi Freedom Shield, the two countries will conduct military exercises involving 480,000 military personnel and 4,000 civilians. The dramatic show of force has prompted anger from Kim Jong-Un’s allies in Pyongyang as North Korea grows increasingly hostile.
The tests will rehearse joint counter-attacks, weapons and fuel supply, and disposal of biological and chemical weapons, and will take place over ten days.
Full details have not been made public, but past drills have involved tens of thousands of troops and large numbers of aircraft warships and tanks.
The two militaries said in a joint statement said the exercises are being conducted in response to an “increased volume and scale of missile tests” by North Korea throughout the past year.
The US has insisted the drills are part of plans to respond to a potential north-to-south invasion, but Pyongyang has said they are a rehearsal for invasion.
North Korea has resumed missile tests recently, with the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range in May this year.
South Korean officials say it is ready to conduct its seventh nuclear test at short notice.
The statement continues: “With this in mind, and considering the evolving threat … both leaders committed to expanding the scope and scale of combined military exercises and training.”
It added that the Ulchi Freedom Shield would “bolster combined readiness”.
President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea said: “The Ulchi exercises serve as a starting point for the government to renew emergency preparedness corresponding to changes in war patterns.
“Only exercises that are identical to an actual battle can firmly defend the lives of our people and the security of our nation.
“Our watertight security posture must serve as the basis to maintain peace.”
The announcement of drills comes after Pyongyang rejected an offer of economic aid from Seoul in exchange for taking steps toward denuclearisation.
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North Korea openly dismissed the offer, with Kim jong-un’s sister calling President Yoon “foolish” and “simple”.
She said: “It would have been more favourable for his image to shut his mouth.
“To think that the plan to barter ‘economic cooperation’ for our honour, nukes, is the great dream, hope and plan of Yoon, we came to realise that he is really simple and still childish.
“We make it clear that we will not sit face to face with him.”
South Korea’s Unification Minister, who handles relations with the North, called Kim’s comments “very disrespectful and indecent.”
President Yoon took office earlier this year and resolved to take a considerably harder line with its neighbour after it resumed a barrage of missile tests.
It follows a relative respite in tensions during former President Donald Trump’s time in the White House, who cancelled the original Ulchi drills after discussions between the two powers.
However, Kim has said the north is “ready to mobilise” its nuclear capability in any war with the US, but has no intentions to attack South Korea.
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