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NUKEWARS
US has many military options in Korea as Trump, Xi agree on max pressure
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 18, 2017


US flies bombers over Korean peninsula for drill: Seoul
Seoul (AFP) Sept 18, 2017 - The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a show of force after North Korea's latest nuclear and missile tests, South Korea's defence ministry said.

The flight was to "demonstrate the deterrence capability of the US-South Korea alliance against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats", the ministry said in a statement.

They were the first flights since the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan last Friday, sending regional tensions soaring.

The US jets flew alongside four South Korean F-15K jet fighters as part of "routine" training, the statement said, adding that the allies would continue such exercises to "improve their joint operation capabilities against contingencies".

The previous such flights were on August 31.

Separately, China and Russia began a joint naval exercise east of the Korean peninsula.

The drill will be held in waters between the Russian port of Vladivostok and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, further north, the Chinese defence ministry said.

Chinese independent military analyst Wei Dongxu said it was mainly a submarine hunting exercise and not directly related to the situation on the Korean peninsula.

"However, it demonstrates a common determination to maintain regional stability and deter forces or countries from trying to move into the northeast Asia area," he said.

- 'Strongest possible measures' -

The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions on North Korea over its missile and atomic weapons programmes, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.

Moscow backs Beijing's proposal for a freeze on North Korea's nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills, which China blames for fanning regional tensions.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has rejected the proposal as "insulting" and said that if Pyongyang should pose a serious threat to the US or its allies, "North Korea will be destroyed".

North Korea's weapons drive is set to dominate US President Donald Trump's address to the UN General Assembly later Monday and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Tensions flared when Kim Jong-Un's regime tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.

The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific last Friday, responding to the new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.

Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone Saturday and vowed to exert "stronger pressure" on the North, with Moon's office warning that further provocation would put it on a "path of collapse".

The US president has not ruled out a military option, which could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital -- and 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the South -- vulnerable to potential retaliatory attack.

Trump's National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has said the US would "have to prepare all options" if sanctions prove insufficient to stop the North's weapons drive.

The United States has "many" military options against North Korea, including some that don't put Seoul at risk, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday.

His comments come after President Donald Trump's administration ramped up pressure on North Korea on Sunday, warning Pyongyang will be "destroyed" if it refuses to end its "reckless" nuclear and ballistic missile drive.

"There are many military options, in concert with our allies, that we will take to defend our allies and our own interests," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.

He did not provide details, but he responded affirmatively when asked if these included options that would not put Seoul at grave risk.

Mattis also confirmed that the US and Seoul had discussed the option of sending limited-size "tactical" nuclear weapons to South Korea.

North Korea's weapons drive is set to dominate Trump's address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Tensions flared when Kim Jong-Un's regime tested what it termed a hydrogen bomb many times more powerful than its previous device.

The North also fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific on Friday, responding to fresh new UN sanctions with what appeared to be its longest-ever missile flight.

Amid calls for the United States and Japan to shoot down such missiles, Mattis said there was no need to do so because they were not a direct threat.

"The bottom line is that in the missiles, were they to be a threat, whether it be the US territory Guam, obviously Japan, Japan's territory, that would elicit a different response from us," he said.

Trump, Xi agree on 'maximizing pressure' on N. Korea: White House
United Nations, United States (AFP) Sept 18, 2017 - US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping committed to "maximizing pressure on North Korea", the White House said Monday, amid an escalating crisis over Pyongyang's ballistic and nuclear weapons programs.

In a phone call the two men discussed "North Korea's continued defiance of the international community and its efforts to destabilize Northeast Asia," the White House said.

"The two leaders committed to maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions."

Trump is currently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly but Xi -- who has a major Communist Party congress that will cement his leadership for the next five years -- is not attending the event.

Trump is expected to make his first presidential visit to China in early November.

September has seen a significant ratcheting up of already sky-high tensions with Pyongyang.

Already North Korea has conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and staged an intermediate-range missile test over Japan.

The UN Security Council last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions, though Washington toned down its original proposals to secure support from China and Russia.

The US president has not ruled out a military option, which could leave millions of people in the South Korean capital -- and 28,500 US soldiers stationed in the South -- vulnerable to potential retaliatory attack.

The US flew four F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula on Monday in a blunt show of force.

China's official news agency, Xinhua, said that during the phone conversation "Xi also expressed sympathy and solicitude to Trump and the American people for the hurricane attacks on the United States over the past few days."

"The two leaders also exchanged views on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula."

NUKEWARS
Will China turn off North Korea's oil?
Beijing (AFP) Sept 15, 2017
China feeds North Korea's energy needs through the "Sino-DPRK Friendship Oil Pipeline", but Washington wants Beijing to turn off the tap to pressure its neighbour into abandoning its nuclear programme. After North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Beijing again to use "the very powerful tool of oil supply" as leverage on its nu ... read more

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