US, South Korea drills begin amid tensions with North

Angelo Anderson
August 22, 2017

After North Korea and the United States traded bellicose threats of nuclear conflagration, all eyes will be on an annual war game in the South next week that could send tensions spiralling back upwards, analysts say.

"The Korean People's Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies".

Pyongyang had threatened to fire four ballistic missiles toward the waters off the USA territory of Guam, but it backed off its threat Tuesday after key US officials dismissed the risk of imminent war with the North. About 17,500 USA service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 a year ago, according to the Pentagon.

And, the tensions were ratcheted up further when President Donald Trump made threats of fire and fury to North Korea.

It declared North Korea's army could target the USA mainland, Hawaii or the Pacific territory of Guam at any time, claiming America would be unable to "dodge the merciless strike".

Ambassador Kim reiterated his leader's demand that the USA immediately stop its "arrogant provocation" and its "extremely risky actions around the Korean Peninsula", including deploying "huge nuclear strategic equipment".

"We can not stand the fact the enemy tries to form schemes to assassinate our leadership", North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, said in July.

The US has rebuffed the efforts so far and insisted that the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises would go ahead as planned, arguing they are lawful under global law as opposed to North Korea's missile and nuclear tests.

Tillerson said peaceful diplomatic pressure was the preferred way to get Pyongyang to stop its testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. But, because of the increased attention on the Korean peninsula, North Korea's allies of China and Russian Federation are making louder calls to freeze these exercises in the interest of getting North Korea back to the table to talk about de-escalating aggression on the peninsula.

"In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities", he said.

The meetings took place after Stephen K. Bannon, Trump's strategic advisor, told a magazine that there was no military solution to the North Korea problem.

"The drills deal with all the steps involved in a war, of course, towards victory", said Moon Seong-mook, a retired South Korean brigadier who regularly participated in the drills until the mid-2000s. Their motto is "Fight Tonight", reflecting their commitment to help defend South Korea from North Korean aggression at a moment's notice.

The resolution imposes the toughest sanctions yet on North Korea including banning all exports of coal, iron, lead, and fish and seafood products valued at $1 billion - about a third of the country's total exports. "I want to warn North Korea to do no more risky gambling", Moon said.

North Korea has repeatedly called for an end to large-scale joint military exercises between the allies in exchange for a freeze on its nuclear and missile programmes.

About 25,000 US service members joined last year's UFG drills.

"The drill will definitely provoke Pyongyang more, and Pyongyang is expected to make a more radical response", it said in an editorial.

"This is aimed to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula at any cost", the North's KCNA news agency said.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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