Military officials announced Friday their plans to move forward with large-scale U.S.-South Korea military exercises later this month that North Korea--in the midst of finalizing plans to launch missiles toward Guam--claims are a rehearsal for war.
The annual military exercises typically spark tension, but this year, they're coming on the cusp of increasingly hostile relations exhibited between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Most recently, Trump said early Friday morning that U.S. military solutions are "fully in place, locked and loaded."
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
Earlier this week, Trump sent the world into a frenzy when he announced that he would unleash "fire and fury" on the regime if they didn't cease nuclear operations. Pyongyang responded, saying Trump was "extremely getting on the nerves" of his soldiers, and reported plans to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles over Japan and into the waters around Guam.
Called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, the exercises are expected to run from Aug. 21-31 and involve tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops on the ground, sea and air. The U.S. and South Korea underscore the importance of the exercises, claiming that they're a defensive in nature and crucial to maintaining a deterrent against North Korea.
The exercises were scheduled before tensions began to to rise, but the heightened military activity is a particular concern because it could increase the possibility of a mishap or an overreaction from either side, escalating into something much bigger.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.