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Pyongyang cites the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea as a key reason for building up its atomic weapons program. The United States repeatedly has said it has no intention of attacking the North.

But this week’s exercises were intended to warn the North that Seoul and Washington will not tolerate acts of aggression.

The exercises involve about 20 ships, 200 aircraft and about 8,000 U.S. and South Korean sailors. At the center of the maneuvers is the USS George Washington, a floating fortress that can carry up to 70 aircraft and more than 5,000 sailors and aviators.

As fighters flew off the decks of the carrier and South Korea’s defense minister toured the ship, about a half-dozen destroyers stepped up their part of the drills by dropping anti-submarine bombs and firing artillery at target drones.

“It’s a show of force, a deterrent,” said Capt. Paul Hogue, commanding officer of the USS Curtis Wilbur. He said the exercises have been a success.

“I think it’s gotten their attention,” he said.

Lt. Kim Seong-joon, a South Korean liaison officer aboard the Curtis Wilbur, said the sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March was a wake-up call for his nation. He said he lost two friends in the sinking.

“Our navy was sad at first, then angry. I think we need this exercise,” he said.

Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report from Seoul.