Monday, 20 November, 2017

South joint drills begin amid North Korea tensions

Time is on Kim Jong-Un's side South Korea's Moon Jae-In Says There Will Not be Another War on the Korean Peninsula
Kenny Thornton | 22 August, 2017, 03:23

U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers in a military exercise near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, August 10, 2017.

US and South Korean troops have begun annual military drills amid heated warnings by the North that the exercises will worsen tensions in the region.

The exercise brings together as many as 50,000 South Korean soldiers and approximately 17,500 U.S. service members for a simulation of war on the Korean Peninsula.

They are described as defensive, but nuclear-armed Pyongyang views them as a highly provocative rehearsal for invasion. "North Korea should not exaggerate our efforts to keep peace nor should they engage in provocations that would worsen the situation, using (the exercise) as an excuse", he said.

The Aug.21 to Aug.31 exercises involve computer simulations created to prepare for the unthinkable: war with nuclear-capable North Korea. Unlike the March exercise, UFG doesn't include live fire drills and happens concurrently with drills by local governments and civil servants to prepare South Korea's civil defenses.

Run jointly with the USA, the drills have been called a preparation for war by North Korea.

Last month, China and Russian Federation floated a proposal for the United States and South Korea to halt their drills in exchange for North Korea freezing its missile program.

A confidential US intelligence assessment recently determined North Korea had created a miniaturized nuclear warhead.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea reached a fever pitch last week after it was reported North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile.

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Impoverished North Korea hates the drills in part because it must frequently respond with its own expensive displays of military might.

North Korea later said its leader would wait to "watch the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees" before deciding whether to conduct the missile test. The latest sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

"If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise".

Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Command, and Gen. John E. Hyten, chief of the United States Strategic Command, arrived in South Korea over the weekend to observe the exercises.

While the allies are pushing ahead with the exercises that date back to 1976, around 17,500 United States troops will participate in the drills - a cutback from past year.

About 17,500 US service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 past year, according to the Pentagon.

From the South Korean side, some 50,000 forces would join the military exercise.

Choi Jin-wook, a professor of global relations at Japan's Ritsumeikan University and former president of South Korea's state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, said a sixth nuclear test would be essential for North Korea to develop an operational nuclear-tipped ICBM.

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