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USA persists with war drills with South Korea

US refuses to pause drills despite North’s vow of ‘merciless retaliation’ AUGUST 23, 2017, SEOUL — As North Korea vowed “merciless retaliation” against United States-South Korean military drills it claims are an invasion rehearsal, senior US military commanders yesterday dismissed calls to pause or downsize the exercises they said were crucial to countering a clear threat from Pyongyang.

The heated North Korean rhetoric, along with occasional weapons tests, is standard fare during the spring and summer war games by allies Seoul and Washington.

 USA persists with But uneasy ties between the Koreas are worse than normal this year following weeks of tit-for-tat threats between US President Donald Trump and Pyongyang in the wake of the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month.

There have been calls in both the US and South Korea to postpone or modify the drills in an attempt to ease hostility on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s threat to fire missiles toward the US territory of Guam.

But a visiting group of senior US military commanders, including Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of US forces in the Pacific, said the drills are critical for the allies to maintain readiness against an aggressive North Korea.

“A strong diplomatic effort backed by a strong military effort is key because credible combat power should be in support of diplomacy and not the other way around,” Adm Harris said during a news conference at South Korea’s Osan Air Base.

General Vincent Brooks, commander of US Forces Korea, said the allies should continue the war games until they “have reason not to”. He added: “That reason has not yet emerged.”

The North Korean military said in a statement that it will launch an unspecified “merciless retaliation and unsparing punishment” on the US over the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began on Monday for an 11-day run.

Despite the threat, an unprovoked direct attack is unlikely because the US vastly outguns Pyongyang, which values the continuation of its dictatorship above all else. The impoverished North hates the drills in part because they force it to respond with expensive military measures of its own.

The North Korean statement accused the US of deploying unspecified “lethal” weapons for the drills that it says involve a “beheading operation” training aimed at removing absolute ruler Kim Jong-un.

“No one can vouch that these huge forces concentrated in South Korea will not go over to an actual war action now that the military tensions have reached an extreme pitch in the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.

“Moreover, high-ranking bosses of the US imperialist aggressor forces flew into South Korea to hold a war confab. Such huddle is increasing the gravity of the situation.” Adm Harris said yesterday it was more important to use diplomacy to counter North Korea’s missile threat rather than consider what actions by the reclusive nation might trigger a preemptive strike. “So we hope and we work for diplomatic solutions to the challenge presented by Kim Jong-un,” Adm Harris said.

When asked what actions by North Korea might trigger a preemptive US strike against Pyongyang, he added: “As far as a timeline, it would be crazy for me to share with you those tripwires in advance. If we did that, it would hardly be a military strategy.”

The Ulchi drills are largely computer-simulated war games held every summer, and this year’s exercise involves 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers.

No field training like live-fire exercises or tank manoeuvring is involved in the Ulchi drills, in which alliance officers sit at computers to practise how they would engage in battles and hone their decision-making capabilities. The allies have said the drills are defensive in nature. AGENCIES

August 23, 2017 - Posted by | South Korea, USA, weapons and war

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