Seoul says US, SKorea preparing joint military drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Seoul's military says South Korea and the United States are preparing to hold their annual joint military exercises despite warnings from North Korea that the drills could derail the fragile nuclear diplomacy.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the exercises will be focused on verifying Seoul's capabilities for its planned retaking of wartime operational control of its troops from Washington. It did not confirm reports that the drills began on Monday.

North Korea has been ramping up its weapons tests in recent weeks while expressing frustration over the planned drills it sees as an invasion rehearsal and also the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States.

The North suggested last month it might call off its unilateral suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests if the drills take place.