Exercise to Strengthen Efforts in Defense of South Korea, Mattis Says

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The United States and South Korea began the long-planned exercises on Monday, called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which the allies have said are purely defensive.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said North and South Korea and the United States all needed to make more effort to ease tension.

The United States' most senior military officer on Friday said North Korea understands that any attack on Japan is equal to one on the U.S. itself-and vice versa.

"North Korea should recognize that its continued provocations are leading to a repeated vicious cycle of South Korea-U.S. joint defensive drills".

The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang which see the exercises as practice for an invasion, however the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.

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The drill, which will last for 10 days, will involve about 17,500 USA troops and 50,000 South Korean troops.

The White House suggested he will also talk about North Korea.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that both Seoul and Washington had considered calling off an initial plan that would see two aircraft carriers move into the peninsula to take part in the drill in order to appease Kim Jong-un, the subject of "decapitation drills" in previous Ulchi exercises.

North Korea said recently it was considering firing a salvo of missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam. "That may cause some noise from North Korea, and that's what we routinely expect, but it doesn't stop us in our resolve to be as ready as possible and leave the greatest number of options".

Last week, North Korea threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the U.S. territory of Guam-although it appears to have backed off for now. There will be no field training during the exercise.

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The Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on August 5 that could slash its $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

Harris, who oversees the USA armed forces covering the Asia-Pacific region, said the United States is always ready to defend the region, reaffirming US commitment to its allies including South Korea and Japan.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea.

Guterres spoke by telephone with Deputy Ambassador Kim In Ryong on Tuesday, the North Korean mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday.

Around 17,500 US troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers will participate in the exercises, an increase over the last exercises.

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The Australians are working in the command-and-control post during the exercise which started on Monday and involves more than 17,000 American troops along with small contingents from Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

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