The U.S. and South Korea began their largest joint military exercises since 2018 on Monday.
The Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises will run through Sept. 1, and will involve aircraft, warships, tanks and infantry. A joint statement from the two countries described the drills as defensive, though North Korea describes them as practice for an invasion.
The exercises represent a renewal of drills after the U.S. and South Korea held smaller events in the years since 2018.
The joint exercises come as both North Korea and China have grown increasingly aggressive, with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un firing missiles and China holding military drills around Taiwan.
North Korea flatly rejected calls from the South to denuclearize last week. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol made a radical proposal that would allow North Korea to join the international economy if the country disarmed its nuclear arsenal.
Kim’s sister dismissed the proposal out of hand on Friday.
“It would have been more favorable for his image to shut his mouth, rather than talking nonsense as he had nothing better to say,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement.
While this week’s military drills are not designed with China as a potential adversary, the renewed partnership between the U.S. and South Korean militaries will also send a message to nearby China.
The Chinese military has held extensive and unprecedented live-fire drills surrounding the Island of Taiwan in recent weeks. The country has cited trips from U.S. lawmakers to the island as the reason for the escalation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the highest-level U.S. official to visit the self-governed island since Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997, but other groups of U.S. lawmakers have long made trips there.
Taiwan split from China after pro-democracy forces lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. The island has been a self-governed democracy ever since, but still has billions of dollars in trade ties with the mainland.