US, South Korea begin military drill as North reacts

US, South Korea begin military drill as North reacts”

Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, newly appointed chairman of South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff (JCS), said in the parliamentary confirmation hearing last week that it would be important to dissuade Pyongyang from its possession of nuclear weapons through dialogue and pressure.

In an editorial published on Sunday the official North Korean newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, criticised the joint military exercise as an "expression of enmity", adding that no one can guarantee "that the exercise won't lead to hostilities".

The 11-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill involves 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 USA troops.

"As long as the threat from North Korea exists, we need to maintain a high state of readiness to respond to that threat", Dunford told reporters in Beijing last week.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump pledged to answer North Korean aggression with 'fire and fury.' North Korea, for its part, threatened to launch missiles toward the American territory of Guam before its leader Kim Jong Un backed off saying he would first watch how Washington acts before going ahead with the missile launch plans.

Despite the threat, US and South Korean militaries launched this year's 11-day training on Monday morning as scheduled.

"North Korea must understand that it is because of its repeated provocations that South Korea and the USA 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. About 17,500 USA service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 previous year, according to the Pentagon.

It involves tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers.

In an unusual gesture, three top US military commanders - Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris, Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten and Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves - will observe the command-post exercise in person. In exchange for their suspension, China has suggested that North Korea should freeze its nuclear program. While some experts believe it may have the technology, others caution that even if it doesn't, North Korea should be taken at its word.

Moon said the current situation is more grave than ever before.

"The government, putting everything on the line, will block war by all means", Moon said.

"The word that came out past year was decapitation because we were being threatened by North Korea having done nuclear tests and missiles, so we took those two events very seriously", said the Asan Institute's Choi.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea.

Seoul and Washington claimed their joint war games, including the "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" springtime joint military exercises, to be defensive in nature.

The new South Korean leader reiterated that most South Koreans, including the victims themselves, simply can not accept the deal, according to Park.

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