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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Moon Jae-in has decided not to visit Japan for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, citing a failure to set up a summit with Japan’s prime minister that would produce meaningful results in improving relations.Moon’s office said Monday that officials from Seoul and Tokyo held talks over longstanding disputes about wartime history and a “future-oriented” development of their relations, but did not find enough common ground to support a summit between their leaders.The countries had been discussing the possibility of Moon visiting Tokyo to participate in the Olympics’ opening ceremony and having talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga about repairing bilateral ties that have sunk to postwar lows in recent years with disputes over history, trade and military cooperation.It was unclear how close they came to setting up a summit. Seoul said their talks were damaged by a “last-minute obstacle.”The announcement by Moon’s office came after the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi to protest remarks made by another senior Japanese diplomat who, according to a local broadcaster, used lewd language with its reporters to ridicule Moon’s hopes about using the Olympics to improve relations.According to JTBC, Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, said Moon would be “masturbating” if he thinks he would have a summit during the Olympics, saying Suga has more on his plate than just South Korea-Japan relations.When asked whether the incident influenced Moon’s decision not to go to the Olympics, a senior South Korean presidential official acknowledged that the “internal atmosphere” at the Blue House “shifted toward skepticism” after the JTBC report. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a background briefing, did not provide details about the discussions with Japan on setting up Moon’s visit.Suga told reporters he hopes to “continue to communicate firmly” with South Korea’s government in order to restore a healthy relationship between the neighbors. He said Soma’s comments were “very inappropriate and regrettable.”Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said no decision has been made on whether Soma will be removed from his current position.The South Korean government delegation at the Olympics will be led by Hwang Hee, the minister of culture, sports and tourism.“The Tokyo Olympics are a festival of peace for people around the world, and we hope that Japan holds the Olympics safely and successfully,” said Park Soo Hyun, Moon’s spokesperson, reading a statement on TV. “We also hope our athletes, despite the difficult conditions, fully display the skills they have developed in competition and return home healthy.”Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been strained since South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 ordered some Japanese companies to compensate Korean forced laborers for their ordeals during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The rulings led to further tensions over trade when Japan imposed export controls on chemicals vital to South Korea’s semiconductor industry in 2019.Seoul accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade and threatened to terminate a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Tokyo that was a major symbol of their trilateral security cooperation with Washington. South Korea eventually backed off and continued the deal after being pressured by the Trump administration, which until then seemed content to let its allies escalate their feud in public.The countries have been trying to improve relations since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who has called for stronger three-way cooperation in the face of North Korean nuclear threats and challenges posed by China. But progress has been slow and friction between the countries has continued as the Olympics approach.Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said South Korea and Japan have squandered an easy opportunity to signal their willingness to improve relations.“The Moon administration has not made enough domestic progress in addressing legal and historical challenges to diplomacy. Meanwhile, the Suga government has mismanaged the situation by insufficiently prioritizing Korea to the point of discourtesy,” Easley said.“Members of the Biden administration are no doubt disappointed while leaders in North Korea and China delight in the disunity of U.S. allies.”Also on Saturday, South Korea’s Olympic Committee removed banners at the Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo that referred to a 16th-century Korean naval admiral who fought off an invading Japanese fleet after the International Olympic Committee ruled they were provocative.In agreeing to take down the banners, the South Koreans said they received a promise from the IOC that displays of the Japanese “rising sun” flag will be banned at stadiums and other Olympic venues. The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is resented by many people in South Korea and other parts of Asia who see it as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past. ———Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi and video journalist Haruka Nuga in Tokyo contributed to this report.
South Korea’s Olympic committee says it has removed banners at the Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo which referred to a 16th-century war between Korea and JapanBy KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated PressJuly 17, 2021, 8:49 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s Olympic committee said Saturday it removed banners at the Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo that referred to a 16th-century war between Korea and Japan after the International Olympic Committee ruled they were provocative.In agreeing to take down the banners, the South Koreans said they received a promise from the IOC that the displaying of the Japanese “rising sun” flag will be banned at stadiums and other Olympic venues. The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is resented by many people in South Korea and other parts of Asia who see it as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past.The South Korean banners, which drew protests from some Japanese far-right groups, had been hung at the balconies of South Korean athletes’ rooms and collectively spelled out a message that read: “I still have the support of 50 million Korean people.”This borrowed from the famous words of 16th-century Korean naval admiral Yi Sun-sin, who according to historical lore told King Seonjo of Korea’s Joseon Kingdom “I still have 12 battleships left” before pulling off a crucial victory against a larger Japanese fleet during the 1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea.South Korea’s Olympic Committee said it was told by the IOC that the banners invoked images of war and went against Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which says “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”The committee said it agreed to remove the banners after the IOC promised to also apply the same rules to the rising sun flags and ban them at all Olympic venues.“Under the agreement, the committee will not raise any further debate to allow athletes to fully focus on competition, while the IOC will ban the displaying of the rising sun flag at all Olympic venues so that no political problems would arise,” the South Korean committee said in a statement.Toshiro Muto, the CEO of Tokyo’s organizing committee, said the IOC thought the South Korean banners were “not appropriate” and asked them to be taken down.Seiko Hashimoto, president of the organizing committee, acknowledged there “may be many ways of thinking” over the issue.“If the message is regarded as political, it goes against the message of the Olympics and the Paralympics to bring the world together as one,” she said.The Japanese officials made no comments about the South Korean announcement that the IOC also banned the rising sun flag at the games.South Korea in 2019 had first formally asked the IOC to ban the rising sun flag at the Olympics, comparing it to the Nazi swastika. South Korean Olympic officials then said Tokyo’s organizing committee rejected their demands for the flag to be banned, saying it was widely used in Japan and was not considered a political statement.Many South Koreans still harbor animosity over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, and the countries have seen their relations sink to new post-war lows in recent years with disputes over history, trade and military cooperation.The countries have been trying to improve relations since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who has called for stronger three-way cooperation with the traditional U.S. allies in the face of the North Korean nuclear threats and challenges posed by China. But progress has been slow.South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday summoned Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi to protest remarks made by another senior Japanese diplomat who, according to a local broadcaster, used lewd language to ridicule South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to improve bilateral ties while meeting with its reporters.The countries had been discussing the possibility of Moon visiting Tokyo to participate in the Olympics’ opening ceremony and having talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga over improving relations.———AP writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to the story from Tokyo.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea reported a near-high in coronavirus infections Thursday as a weekslong surge extends beyond the capital region and the country’s toughest pandemic restrictions.The surge, increasingly fueled by the more contagious delta variant, is a worrisome development in a country where 70% of the population is waiting for their first vaccine dose. It further erases what had been a success story in the pandemic and underscores the challenges policymakers face in balancing measures to control virus outbreaks without further damaging their economy.“Over the past week, there has been a clear increase in the speed of transmissions not only in the (Seoul) metropolitan area but also in non-metropolitan areas,” said Bae Kyung-taek, a senior Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency official, during a briefing. “We ask our people to cancel unnecessary meetings and refrain from going out as much as possible.”Thursday’s 1,600 new cases nearly matched South Korea’s high from a day earlier and was the ninth straight day exceeding 1,000. The country’s caseload is now 173,511, including 2,050 deaths.Most were in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, part of the densely populated capital region that’s home to half of South Korea’s more than 51 million people.Officials here have raised social distancing restrictions to the highest “Level 4,” closing nightclubs and churches, banning visitors at hospitals and nursing homes and clamping down on private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m.But rising infections outside the capital area are prompting calls for virus restrictions to be elevated nationwide. The 494 cases outside the capital region were the highest since February 2020, when the country dealt with its first major outbreak, which was mostly limited to the southern city of Daegu and nearby areas.The virus is once again circulating quickly in southern regions, with Daegu, Busan and South Gyeongsang province reporting more than 200 cases combined. Health workers here are scrambling to trace infections linked to various places, including hostess bars, restaurants, schools and offices.More than 110 cases were reported in the central city of Daejeon and nearby South Chungcheong Province, where hundreds of hostess bars in Cheonan are participating in voluntary closures at least until Sunday over virus concerns.The regions outside the greater capital area are currently maintaining Level 1-2 restrictions, which allow for social bubbles of up to eight people and for restaurants, bars and nightclubs to receive customers until midnight.Busan, South Korea’s second largest city, has added extra precautions to its Level 2 rules since last Friday, forcing entertainment venues to close after 10 p.m. and prohibiting social gatherings of five or more people after 6 p.m.Some experts have urged the government to elevate distancing measures simultaneously across the country to prevent a “ballooning effect” where the squeeze in the capital area spikes transmissions elsewhere. But KDCA officials during the briefing said such action isn’t currently being discussed.South Korea was praised for its initial response to the pandemic that included aggressive testing and contact-tracing, but the early success was followed by months of complacency before the country was hit by a devastating winter surge.Critics say the country has slipped into another huge wave of the virus in a similar way it sleepwalked into the crisis in December and January, with officials sending the wrong message to the public by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing.Anticipating the COVID-19 caseload to slow during the summer, officials announced plans in May and June to ease mask requirements and allow larger gatherings and longer indoor dining hours at restaurants starting in July.The changes were put on hold in the capital area as infections spiked. Before the implementation of the Level 4 measures, the packed restaurants and bars and huge beer-drinking crowds at Seoul’s Han River displayed how the country had let its guard down despite a slow vaccine rollout.As of Thursday, only 30.8% of the population have been administered their first dose of vaccines and only 12% have received their second shot. But compared to the winter surge, deaths and hospitalizations have slowed after the country concentrated its early supplies to high-risk groups, including elders in their 60s or older and people in long-term care settings.Health officials expect vaccinations to pick up later this month when it starts inoculating people in their 50s. Bae said around 35 million doses of shots produced by AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will arrive in the country through late August.
South Korea has reported 1,212 new cases, a steep rise in coronavirus infections unseen since the winter outbreak as it slips into another surge while most of its people are still unvaccinatedBy KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 6:29 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSEOUL, South Korea — South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,212 new cases, a steep rise in coronavirus infections unseen since the winter outbreak as it slips into another surge while most of its people are still unvaccinated.Health experts say the government sent the wrong message by pushing for a premature easing of social distancing.Packed restaurants, bars and stores and huge beer-drinking crowds at parks alongside Seoul’s Han River in recent weeks have illustrated how the country has let its guard down despite a slow vaccine rollout.Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said officials will consider tougher distancing rules if transmissions continue to grow over the next two or three days. President Moon Jae-in in a separate meeting instructed officials to swiftly deploy police officers, troops and civil servants to help with contact tracing.“This is an emergency situation where we need to invest all our abilities to respond to COVID-19,” Kim said, while pleading for public vigilance.The government had planned to raise the cap on private gatherings from four to six people, extend indoor dining at restaurants by two hours until midnight and allow vaccinated people to go without masks starting this month. But officials in Seoul and nearby areas held off the new rules as infections rose.More than 1,000 of the new cases came from the greater capital area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, including a record 577 in Seoul. Infections were also reported in other major cities and regions, fueling concerns the virus could spread further during the summer holidays.While infections among people in their 60s and older have slowed following vaccinations, transmissions are accelerating across other age groups, including those in their 20s and 30s who are more likely to go out socializing, said Lee Ki-Il, deputy minister of health care policy at South Korea’s Health Ministry.“The number of virus patients is increasing very fast in metropolitan areas where there is a high concentration of bars and other entertainment venues young people often go to,” he said.Lee also expressed concern over the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the virus. He advised tests for young adults who recently visited Seoul’s major entertainment districts, including Gangnam and Hongdae, regardless of whether they are exhibiting symptoms. He urged companies to have more employees work from home.The government plans to add at least 25 more testing stations in Seoul and tighten the enforcement of restrictions at restaurants and other businesses, which from Thursday will face 10-day closures if they fail to implement distancing and other measures.When asked whether the government worsened the outbreak by signaling an easing of social distancing rules, Son Young-rae, another Health Ministry official, said it’s hard to ignore the pandemic fatigue and the struggles of small businesses and the self-employed who rely on a battered service sector economy.“We need to keep trying to find a balance between anti-virus measures and efforts to restore normalcy as the COVID-19 crisis prolongs,” Son said. “We have maintained that people should remain vigilant throughout this process … but considering the current surge in infections, there’s regret that we should have communicated that message more effectively.”The country’s caseload is now at 162,753, after adding around 5,800 cases this month alone. The death toll is at 2,033.Only 30% of its population have received first doses as of Wednesday. Just around 10% have got both jabs.Those vaccinated include hospital and essential workers, people in long-term care settings, troops and adults in their 60s or older, but inconsistent supplies have left the vast majority of younger adults still waiting.South Korea on Wednesday received 700,000 Pfizer shots from Israel in exchange for a future shipment of vaccines to Israel from September to November, when officials hope South Korea’s shortage will have eased.Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency Director Jung Eun-kyeong said the doses will go to Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province where the virus is spreading fastest. She expressed hope the shots will help speed up vaccinations of nursery, day care workers and kindergarten and elementary schoolteachers, which authorities plan to start this month.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated top officials for failures in coronavirus prevention that caused a “great crisis,” using strong language that raised the specter of a mass outbreak in a country that would be scarcely able to handle it.The state media report Wednesday did not specify what “crucial” lapse had prompted Kim to call the Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, but experts said North Korea could be wrestling with a significant setback in its pandemic fight.So far, North Korea has claimed to have had no coronavirus infections, despite testing thousands of people and sharing a porous border with China. Experts widely doubt the claim and are concerned about any potential outbreak, given the country’s poor health infrastructure.At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized the senior officials for supposed incompetence, irresponsibility and passiveness in planning and executing anti-virus measures amid the lengthening pandemic, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign,” according to KCNA. This “caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences.”The report also said the party recalled an unspecified member of the Politburo’s powerful Presidium, which consists of Kim and four other top officials.The reference indicated Kim may replace his Cabinet Premier Kim Tok Hun, who would be held responsible for failures in the government’s anti-epidemic work, said Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.“There is no possibility that North Korea will ever admit to an infection — even if there were mass transmissions, the North will definitely not reveal such developments and will continue to push forward an anti-virus campaign it has claimed to be the greatest,” Hong said.“But it’s also clear that something significant happened and it was big enough to warrant a reprimanding of senior officials. This could mean mass infections or some sort of situation where a lot of people were put at direct risk of infections.”Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute, expressed a similar view, saying North Korea is potentially dealing with huge virus-related problems in border towns near China, such as Sinuiju or Hyesan. He said the Presidium member Kim Jong Un sacked could possibly be Jo Yong Won, a secretary of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee who had been seen as a fast-rising figure in the leadership circle.But other experts said Kim could be responding to illicit border trade that defied his lockdown measures or setting the stage for a political shakeup or purge to solidify his grip on power as he navigates perhaps the toughest time of his nine-year rule.South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said it had no immediate information to share about the North Korean report and that it wouldn’t make prejudgments about the country’s virus situation.Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry, raised the possibility of helping North Korea in the event of a major outbreak of COVID-19.“China and the DPRK have a long tradition of helping each other when they encounter difficulties,” Wang said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.“If necessary, China will actively consider providing assistance to the DPRK.”From the start of the pandemic, North Korea described its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and severely curtailed cross-border traffic and trade. The lockdown has further strained an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over the country’s nuclear weapons program.Kim during a political conference earlier this month called for officials to brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating that the country isn’t ready to open its borders despite its economic woes.North Korea has told the World Health Organization it has not found a single coronavirus infection after testing more than 30,000 people, including many described as having fevers or respiratory symptoms.North Korea’s extended border controls come amid uncertainties over the country’s vaccination prospects. COVAX, the U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, said in February that North Korea could receive 1.9 million doses in the first half of the year, but the plans have been delayed due to global shortages.———Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
The former mayor of South Korea’s second-largest city has been jailed for three years for sexually abusing two city employeesBy KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated PressJune 29, 2021, 6:59 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSEOUL, South Korea — The former mayor of South Korea’s second-largest city was jailed Tuesday on a three-year sentence for sexually abusing two city employees during his tenure.The lawyers of Oh Keo-don didn’t immediately return calls and text messages asking whether they plan to appeal. Busan’s district court also ordered Oh to receive counseling and banned him from jobs at child welfare organizations and disability facilities for five years following the end of his jail term.Oh, who was seen as a key ally of Busan-raised President Moon Jae-in, stepped down as the city’s mayor in April 2020 after admitting he had “unnecessary physical contact” with a female public servant who accused him of groping her in his office. The unidentified woman said Oh’s behavior caused her post traumatic stress disorder, according to her lawyers.Oh was later separately accused of making unwanted sexual contact with another female city employee in 2018.Oh’s lawyers insisted it was unclear his behavior was responsible for the woman’s PTSD. They pleaded for leniency, saying that the 72-year-old Oh made positive contributions to society and was dealing with health issues that cause cognitive impairment.The court rejected such claims, saying it was clear that Oh abused his status while harassing the women and that his actions weren’t accidental or one-off in nature.“Even based on materials submitted by the defendant, it’s difficult to believe that the defendant has a degree of cognitive impairment that would have influenced his actions when he was committing the crimes,” the court said in a statement.Moon’s Democratic Party has been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations surrounding some of its major politicians.Former Chungcheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung, once seen as a presidential hopeful, is currently in prison for raping his former secretary. Park Won-soon, then Seoul’s mayor, was found dead of an apparent suicide in July 2020 after a female employee accused him of extended sexual harassment.Moon’s liberal party lost the mayoral by-elections in both Seoul and Busan to conservative opposition candidates in April, a huge setback that analysts say possibly set the stage for an unpredictable presidential vote in March next year.
President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea says he hopes to see a positive reaction from the North soon on U.S. offers for talks after the North Korean leader ordered officials to prepare for both dialogue and confrontationBy KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated PressJune 21, 2021, 9:59 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSEOUL, South Korea — President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea said Monday he hopes to see a positive reaction from the North soon on U.S. offers for talks after North Korea’s leader ordered officials to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation.Sung Kim, Biden’s special representative for North Korea, was in Seoul to speak with South Korean and Japanese officials about the United States’ stalled diplomacy with the North over its nuclear program and U.S.-led sanctions.The trilateral talks followed a North Korean political conference last week where leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger efforts to improve his nation’s economy, further battered last year by pandemic border closures and now facing worsening food shortages.The U.S. envoy said the allies took note of the North Korean leader’s comments and are hoping the North will respond positively to the proposal of a meeting.“We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach and our offer to meet anywhere, anytime without preconditions,” Sung Kim said during his meeting with the South Korean and Japanese nuclear envoys, Noh Kyu-duk and Takehiro Funakoshi. He was referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.Even as it offers talks, Kim stressed that the Biden administration will continue to pressure Pyongyang with sanctions over its nuclear ambitions. In comments possibly directed at China, the North’s major ally and economic lifeline, Kim said Washington will urge “all U.N. member states, especially U.N. Security Council members, to do the same, to address the threat posed” by the North.South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the officials from the three countries reaffirmed a coordinated approach toward North Korea and shared commitment to work toward a quick resumption of dialogue. Kim later met South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, who called for “airtight coordination” between Washington and Seoul on diplomatic efforts to stabilize peace on the Korean Peninsula.North Korea’s economic setbacks followed the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s ambitious summitry with then-President Donald Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North Koreans’ demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities.The North Korean leader in recent political speeches has threatened to bolster his nuclear deterrent and claimed that the fate of diplomacy and bilateral relations depends on whether Washington abandons what he calls hostile policies.U.S. officials have suggested Biden would take the middle ground between Trump’s direct dealings with Kim and President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience.” But some experts say the North likely must take concrete steps toward denuclearization before the Biden administration would ease any sanctions.South Korea, which is eager for inter-Korean engagement, has expressed optimism about a quick resumption of diplomacy.Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the North Korean leader’s comments during a ruling party meeting last week, where he said he expected both dialogue and confrontation with the United States, demonstrated a flexibility toward diplomacy.But others saw the comments as merely a reiteration of Pyongyang’s wait-and-see stance of insisting Washington budge and offer concessions first.While Kim urged officials to boost agricultural production and brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, none of the decisions reported after the party meeting seemed directly related to facilitating talks with the United States.While displaying an openness to talks, the Biden administration has provided little detail about its policy on North Korea beyond a long-term principle of taking a “calibrated and practical approach” on diplomacy while simultaneously upholding sanctions against the country.Tae Yongho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected and was elected a South Korean lawmaker, posted on Facebook that Kim’s comments at the party meeting seemed tailored to mirror what the Biden administration has said about the North.“Advocates of engagement see Kim Jong Un’s recent mention of dialogue as a sign North Korea is opening the door for talks, but Pyongyang has not yet expressed a willingness for working-level negotiations on denuclearization,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.He said the North may return to negotiations only after demonstrating its strength with post-pandemic economic recovery and provocative military tests, which could possibly come later this summer when the United States and South Korea usually hold their combined military exercises. The allies describe the drills as defensive in nature, but the North claims they are invasion rehearsals.