The United States and South Korean began long-planned joint military exercises on Monday, heightening tensions with North Korea which called the drills a “reckless” step toward nuclear conflict.

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.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to increase tension on the peninsula, but North Korea denounced them as a rehearsal for war.

“There is no intent at all to heighten military tension on the Korean peninsula as these drills are held annually and are of a defensive nature,” Moon told cabinet ministers.

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