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NUKEWARS
US-South joint drills begin amid North Korea tensions
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 21, 2017


China urges halt to US-S.Korea military drills
Beijing (AFP) Aug 21, 2017 - China on Monday renewed its call for the United States and South Korea to suspend joint military drills as the two nations began annual war games that have infuriated nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

"The current situation on the Korean peninsula is highly sensitive and fragile, which requires the directly concerned parties including South Korea and US to make joint efforts to ease the tensions," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Beijing has pleaded for a resumption of long-dormant six-nation talks to peacefully resolve the nuclear crisis.

But its proposal for North Korea to suspend its arms programmes in return for the United States to halt military drills in the region has been ignored.

"We don't think the joint exercise will be conducive to easing the current tensions. And we urge relevant parties to (seriously consider) the suspension-for-suspension proposal," Hua told a regular press briefing.

Tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops are taking part in the "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" joint military drills, a largely computer-simulated exercise that runs for two weeks in the South.

Around 17,500 US troops will participate in the drills -- a cutback from last year.

When asked to comment on the troop cutback, Hua only said that China has "noted the reduction of the US forces", but reiterated that military exercises would not help to reduce tensions.

The annual drills are viewed by Pyongyang as a highly provocative rehearsal for invasion, and it always meets them with threats of strong military counteraction.

Only weeks ago it said it was considering firing a salvo of missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) last month that appeared to bring much of the US within range.

That sparked a grim warning by President Donald Trump that Washington could rain "fire and fury" on the North.

Leader Kim Jong-Un last week delayed the Guam strike plan, but warned it could go ahead depending on Washington's next move.

Seoul and Washington began annual war games on Monday, with South Korean President Moon Jae-In warning the nuclear-armed North not to use them as an excuse to perpetuate the "vicious cycle" of tensions.

Tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops are taking part in the "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" joint military drills, a largely computer-simulated exercise that runs for two weeks in the South.

The annual drills are viewed by nuclear-armed Pyongyang as a highly provocative rehearsal for invasion, and it always meets them with threats of strong military counteraction.

Only weeks ago it said it was considering firing a salvo of missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Moon described the exercises as "purely defensive in nature" and warned Pyongyang it "must not use it as an excuse to launch provocations that will worsen the situation".

"North Korea must understand its repeated provocations are what is forcing South Korea and the US to conduct the joint defensive drills, which in turn, keeps the vicious cycle going," Moon told a Cabinet meeting.

Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) last month that appeared to bring much of the US within range.

That sparked a grim warning by President Donald Trump that Washington could rain "fire and fury" on the North.

Leader Kim Jong-Un last week delayed the Guam strike plan, but warned it could go ahead depending on Washington's next move.

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

South Korean media reports have said the US was considering scrapping a plan to bring in two aircraft carriers to the peninsula.

But US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday the smaller troop numbers were "by design to achieve the exercise objectives", denying suggestions Washington had cut them back to try to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

"This right now is an exercise to make certain that we're ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there," Mattis told reporters aboard an aircraft flying to Amman, Jordan.

US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris arrived in the South on Sunday to inspect the exercises and discuss growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

On the eve of the UFG drills, North Korea said the US was "pouring gasoline on fire".

In a commentary carried by the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the North warned of an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war" on the peninsula, which would entangle the US mainland.

"If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else's doorstep far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever."

NUKEWARS
Peace with North Korea a 'possibility': top US general
Beijing (AFP) Aug 17, 2017
Peace with North Korea is a "possibility", America's most senior uniformed officer said Thursday, but warned the US has "credible, viable military options" for dealing with the errant regime. General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, also told reporters during his visit to Beijing that the US has no plans to "dial back" military exercises with South Korea, which have ... read more

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