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South Korea military drills - an unnecessary provocation?

South Korea military drills - an unnecessary provocation?”

In June, China initiated a road map for the settlement of North Korean crisis, the so-called double freeze plan, which provides for the simultaneous cessation of North Korea's nuclear activity and the US-South Korean military exercises.

Thousands of troops participate in largely computer simulated Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills despite warnings from North. Some 17,500 American troops will participate, down from 25,000 previous year along with 50,000 South Koreans.

Nuclear tensions are high again between North Korea and the United States - days after a much-welcomed cooling-off period - with renewed sabre-rattling calling out President Trump by name as the US and South Korea launch joint military maneuvers today.

Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.

It described North Korea as the "strongest possessor" of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the USA mainland from anywhere, CNN reported.

China and Russian Federation back an idea known in shorthand as "freeze for freeze" - suggesting that the USA and South Korea should suspend its large scale annual exercises in exchange for Pyongyang halting its nuclear and missile tests.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the exercises were planned before the latest escalation of tensions and that the focus of the drills were on integration between the two forces

Earlier this month, President Trump issued stern warnings to North Korea, saying the United States will respond with "fire, fury and, frankly, power" to such threats.

"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", an editorial, carried by the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, said.

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. However, the US and South Korea maintain they are purely defensive.

China has urged both Washington and Pyongyang to tone down the rhetoric and stop actions that inflame tensions, missile testing on North Korea's side and military exercises on the USA and South Korean side. The initiative has been supported by Russian Federation but rejected by the United States.

"North Korea has shown it has no regard for the welfare of its own population, no regard for the security and good relations with its neighbours and no regard for worldwide law", he said. The U.S. has always maintained these are purely defensive and to keep the two militaries prepared in case of an unplanned event like a missile strike. In 2016, it fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on the third day.

North Korea has warned Australia that its support of the United States amounts to a "suicidal act", and has threatened "the counter-measures of justice" should it continue engaging in war games.



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