Pyongyang: US, South Korean Military Drills Pushing Peninsula 'Into Nuclear War'

Elias Hubbard
August 21, 2017

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, which will run through August 31, will be the first large-scale military exercise between the allies since North Korea successfully tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July and threatened to bracket Guam with intermediate range ballistic missile fire earlier this month.

In a Sunday editorial, North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper called the exercise "the most explicit expression of hostility against us" and an act of "adding fuel to the fire", reported Yonhap news agency. About 17,500 US service members will participate, with about 3,000 coming from installations outside South Korea. North Korea refused to back down, saying that it was considering firing missiles at the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.

Moon, who took office in May, announced on his 100th day in office that USA and South Korean policies are aligned on North Korea.

"The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire and worsen the state of the [Korean] peninsula".

Despite inflamed tensions and a volley of threats in recent weeks, South Korea, the USA and the United Kingdom will go ahead with the exercise today, sparking fears Kim Jon Un could respond by firing missiles. North Korea has termed the decision to hold the exercise a "catastrophe".

The US military newspaper Stars and Stripes acknowledged their "heightened fears that this year's UFG exercise may spark a new crisis" after Kim left open his threat to fire missiles into waters near Guam. Washington insists that the drills are "defensive", but Pyongyang sees them, and military drills that practice taking out North Korean leadership, as provocations.

During this year's war games in March, North Korea launched four extended-range Scud missiles into the sea in what it described as a rehearsal for striking US military bases in Japan.

Both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week that the US was keeping military options on the table in dealing with North Korea.

"The United States is willing to sit down with North Korea and have a conversation", Nauert said.

"The DPRK is the strongest possessor of ICBMs capable of striking the United States mainland from anywhere and any time as it pleases", the paper said, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea appears to have left open some room for a quid pro quo, added Narang.

Pyongyang then threatened to fire a salvo of missiles towards the USA territory of Guam - a plan that leader Kim Jong-un last week delayed, but warned could go ahead depending on Washington's next move.

The United States and South Korea originally planned to deploy two US aircraft carriers, a nuclear-powered submarine and a strategic bomber to the peninsula.

South Korea's top military officer the current security situation on the peninsula was "more serious than at any other time" and warned Pyongyang it would "retaliate resolutely" against any attack.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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