The United States and South Korea on Monday kicked off their largest joint military exercise in five years amid the growing tension with North Korea.

Iran PressAsia: In 2018, then-President Trump halted the drills after he sought to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to denuclearize his country at an in-person summit. North Korea has often claimed that the US-South Korea military exercises are a rehearsal for an invasion. 

The regular drills were either canceled or downsized to computer simulations to coax diplomatic concessions from North Korea, a mission that largely failed.  

Now, the United States and South Korea began their biggest combined military training in years Monday as they heighten their defense posture against the growing North Korean nuclear threat.

The drills could draw an angry response from North Korea, which has dialed up its weapons testing activity to a record pace this year while repeatedly threatening conflicts with Seoul and Washington amid a prolonged stalemate in diplomacy.

The Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises will continue through Sept. 1 in South Korea and include field exercises involving aircraft, warships, tanks and potentially tens of thousands of troops.

In a joint statement, the two militaries said the drills would "bolster combined readiness" and were a response to an "increased volume and scale of [North Korean] missile tests" in the past year. 219

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