South Korea, U.S. begin military drills
August 19, 2013 10:20 AM

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean and U.S. militaries began annual drills today amid signs of easing tension on the divided peninsula, with Pyongyang’s state media shunning typical rhetoric against what they call a rehearsal for an invasion.

Earlier this year, the Korean Peninsula saw a spike in tensions, with North Korea vowing nuclear wars during earlier annual springtime U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Pyongyang has since eased its rhetoric and pursued dialogues with Seoul and Washington.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that continue until Aug. 30 are computer-simulated war games that involve 30,000 American and 50,000 South Korean troops, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. military command in Seoul.

The allies say the drills are defensive in nature, but Pyongyang has reacted angrily to them in the past, calling the drills a preparation for a pre-emptive attack. But in an unusual move, North Korean state media have not made any major statements on this year’s exercises so far.

“North Korea appears to have determined it’s necessary to take a cool-headed attitude” over the drills to maintain efforts to resume jointly run economic cooperation programs, said analyst Cheong Seong-chang.

The two Koreas last week agreed to work toward reopening a shuttered jointly run factory park, and Pyongyang on Sunday accepted South Korea’s offer for talks on reuniting families separated by war.

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