Published: Tue, August 22, 2017
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Korean troops start drills amid N. Korea standoff

Korean troops start drills amid N. Korea standoff

South Korean and United States forces began annual military exercises on Monday amid tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in saying the drills were purely defensive.

The war of words comes ahead of the annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises, which are scheduled to run from August 21 to August 31.

However, on Sunday, an editorial in North Korea's official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said that the exercises would "worsen" the state of the peninsula and warned of an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

Kim said North Korea would conduct the planned missile launches if the "Yankees persist in their extremely risky reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity" and that the U.S. should "think reasonably and judge property" to avoid shame, the news agency said.

North Korea has long accused the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills and larger springtime joint exercises of raising tensions and has offered to freeze its nuclear and missile tests if they are suspended.

The U.S. rejects this outright, and scaling down the drills now would make President Donald Trump look weak so soon after his warnings of "fire and fury".

"We call on all countries to redouble their efforts, including through implementation of agreed UN Security Council resolutions, to bring North Korea to its senses and end its reckless and unsafe threats to the peace of our region and the world", he added.

How has North Korea reacted?

The numbers of United States troops involved in this years drill are a reduction from last year and USA defence secretary James Mattis said the reductions were "by design to achieve the exercise objectives".

Kim would "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees", a North Korean statement said last week.

The war games take place every year and invariably anger Pyongyang, which views such drills as a rehearsal for an invasion.

"In close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities", said Mattis.

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon.

IT IS an annual show of force and an intimidating illustration of the power of the partnership between South Korea and the US.

The exercises, created to improve South Korea's defence, are carried out to recognise the treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States signed in 1953.

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

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