South Korea and US Begin Drills as North Warns of Rising Tensions

22 August, 2017, 00:27 | Author: Ora Austin
  • U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford left shakes hands with China's Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Fan Changlong at the Bayi Building in Beijing China Thursday Aug. 17 2017. (Thomas Peter  Pool Phot

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to increase tension on the peninsula.

After North Korea's threats against Guam and an nearly unprecedented war of words over Pyongyang's repeated missile tests, analysts have warned that the joint drills may be seen as a provocation at a particularly sensitive time.

Despite the growing tension between North Korea and U.S., the annual military drills held in South Korea continues, which consistently infuriates Pyongyang despite its appeals to halt the exercise.

US President Donald Trump assured South Korea he would consult with them before making any military decisions on North Korea, according to Moon.

However, on Sunday, an editorial in North Korea's official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said that the exercises would "worsen" the state of the peninsula and warned of an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

Both Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un are known for bombastic language in their communication.

Both the US and South Korea strongly defend the exercises arguing they are necessary measures to check their defence readiness.

"What is more serious is the fact that brass hats of the USA military, including the commanders of the US forces in the Pacific and the Strategic Forces, visited South Korea on the eve of the rehearsal", the KCNA said.

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The exercise is defensive in nature, Mattis said, noting that joint exercises have been going on for decades.

The way in which the games are conducted and advertised will send an important signal to the North, said the U.S. military's newspaper Stars and Stripes in a piece published over the weekend.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began Monday are largely computer-simulated war games and will run through August 31. Shortly after last year's exercises, for example, North Korea conducted its second nuclear missile test in nine months.

Read: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis? Last year's war games included planning military strikes to kill the leadership in Pyongyang.

Mattis also made clear the US' willingness to use force if North Korea steps out of line.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part.

The war games, which last 11 days, involve some 17,500 American service members, including about 3,000 from outside the peninsula, and 50,000 South Korean troops.

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon.

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