Published: Jul 25, 2010 2:02 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 24, 2010 11:03 PM EDT

ABOARD USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. and South Korea are putting on a potent show of force in the Sea of Japan and North Korea warns it could lead to "sacred war."
      
The military drills off Korea's east coast are to run through Wednesday with about 8,000 U.S. and South Korean troops, 20 ships and submarines and 200 aircraft. The armada includes the Japan-based supercarrier USS George Washington.
      
The North routinely threatens attacks whenever South Korea and the U.S. hold joint military drills. Pyongyang sees them as a rehearsal for an invasion.
      
Still, the North's latest rhetoric threatening "nuclear deterrence" and "sacred war" carries extra weight following the sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul and Washington blames on the North.
      
The American and South Korean defense chiefs announced earlier in the week they would stage the military drills to send a clear message to North Korea to stop its "aggressive" behavior.