On Monday, the United States and South Korea are set to commence a new series of joint defense drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2017.  While these types of joint military exercises between the two nations occur with some regularity, however, Ulchi Freedom Guardian comes on the heels of a slight reduction in tensions on the peninsula, and as such, has drawn even more criticism from diplomatic opponents in the Pacific like China, and of course, North Korea.

If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else’s door far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever,” a report published in North Korea’s government newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said. “The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” the North Korean outlet went on.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is an annual drill, that has drawn criticism from North Korea in the past for serving as a “rehearsal invasion,” though American and South Korean diplomats have repeatedly assured the international community that these drills are defensive in nature, and designed to increase interoperability between the two state militaries, something of increasing importance in the face of potential war with North Korea.  However, North Korea’s only ally, China, has echoed North Korea’s sentiments that these exercises serve only to heighten tensions between the United States-led allies in the Pacific, and Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime.

The drill will definitely provoke Pyongyang more, and Pyongyang is expected to make a more radical response,” China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial last week. “If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise.”