Thursday, 21 September, 2017

South Korea kick off joint war games amid North Korea tensions

North Korea warns of 'merciless strike' ahead of US-South Korea drills NKorea issues trademark fiery rhetoric over US-SKorea drills
Sammy Stanley | 22 August, 2017, 09:51

The Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military exercises routinely spark condemnation from North Korea.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for continued efforts to "bring North Korea to its senses" after the regime warned Australia was "inviting disaster" through its support of United States war games in the Pacific.

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

A spokesman for the regime's foreign affairs ministry said Australia and other allies could not "avoid counter-measures of justice" from North Korea if they supported the U.S. in a conflict.

"North Korea must understand that it is because of its repeated provocations that South Korea and the US have to conduct defensive exercises, which in turn keeps the vicious cycle going", Moon was quoted as saying at a Cabinet meeting on Monday by Yonhap News Agency.

North Korea views such exercises as preparations for invasion and has fired missiles and taken other actions to show its anger over military drills in the past.

A report Pyongyang has earned millions of dollars in exports seemed likely, meanwhile, to raise doubts about the impact of sanctions to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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South Korean president Moon Jae-in (centre) in a cabinet meeting over annual military drills with the USA, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Monday. US President Donald Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for waiting to fire missiles over Japan into waters near Guam. Russian Federation has also asked for the drills to stop but the United States has not backed down.

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

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

But U.S. 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.

Mattis told reporters while travelling to Jordan that the exercise had been planned months in advance and the focus this year was on integration operations. "The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us, and no one can guarantee that the exercise won't evolve into actual fighting", said an editorial carried by the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

The U.S. generals were to travel to the site of a contentious U.S. missile-defense system in South Korea later Tuesday.

Washington was "mistaken" to think that such a war would take place on "somebody else's doorstep far away from them across the Pacific", it added.

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