North Korea has said it's developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, generating a war of words with Washington and additional trade sanctions on Pyongyang by the UN.
They are described as defensive, but nuclear-armed Pyongyang views them as a highly provocative rehearsal for invasion.
A report Pyongyang has earned millions of dollars in exports seemed likely, meanwhile, to raise doubts about the impact of sanctions to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
'North Korea has shown it has no regard for the welfare of its own population, no regard for the security and good relations with its neighbours and no regard for worldwide law, ' he said in a statement.
President Kim Jong Un's regime slammed the annual drills while also vowing vowing that Guam, Hawaii and the US mainland could not escape a "merciless strike", CNN reported Sunday.More news: North Korea warns of nuclear war over USA military drills with South
Ulchi Freedom Guardian "is a computer-simulated defensive exercise created to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula", the Pentagon said in a statement Friday.
North Korea's recent progress in developing nuclear weapons - as well as missiles capable of reaching the US mainland - has ratcheted up tensions.
Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part. About 17,500 US service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 past year, according to the Pentagon.
South Korea believes North Korea will need at least another one or two more years to obtain that re-entry technology, Seoul's vice defence minister said on Sunday.
Around 30 Brit servicemen from the three branches of the Armed Forces have also travelled out to take part in the 11-day exercise, according to the Daily Mail.More news: Don't take a selfie with the solar eclipse
President Donald Trump has warned that North Korea will face "fire and fury" if it threatens the United States. Seoul used the loudspeakers as a response to two South Korean troops being seriously wounded by North Korean mines placed in the demilitarized zone between the two countries.
But Mattis has not backed down from the possibility of a military confrontation with North Korea.
Pyongyang has since said Kim has delayed his decision on Guam.
He added that the training is held regularly because of repeated provocations by Kim Jong-un. The sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.
Choi Jin-wook, a professor of worldwide relations at Japan's Ritsumeikan University and former president of South Korea's state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, said a sixth nuclear test would be essential for North Korea to develop an operational nuclear-tipped ICBM.More news: US, South Korean Troops Drill Amid Standoff with North
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