North Korea crisis: War would be horrific, United States general says

North Korea warns of'merciless strike ahead of US-South Korea drills

Shortly after last year's exercises, for example, North Korea conducted its second nuclear missile test in nine months.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea's ruling party, said in an editorial that the USA moves to place the worst-ever sanctions on it and launch military provocations have made the situation extremely tense.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea this month it would face "fire and fury" if it threatens the United States.

"If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so".

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that both Seoul and Washington had considered calling off an initial plan that would see two aircraft carriers move into the peninsula to take part in the drill in order to appease Kim Jong-un, the subject of "decapitation drills" in previous Ulchi exercises.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said Monday that North Korea must not use the drills as a pretext to launch fresh provocation, saying the training is held regularly because of repeated provocations by North Korea. But, because of the increased attention on the Korean peninsula, North Korea's allies of China and Russian Federation are making louder calls to freeze these exercises in the interest of getting North Korea back to the table to talk about de-escalating aggression on the peninsula.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said North and South Korea and the United States all needed to make more effort to ease tension.

North and South Korea are still technically at war with the North after the Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

"The Trump group's declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises.is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war", the report in Rodong Sinmun read, according to CNN. So far the USA and South Korea have rejected this idea.

"It's to prepare if something big were to occur and we needed to protect ROK", said Michelle Thomas, a USA military spokeswoman, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

The US has reduced the number of its participating service members to 17,500 from 25,000, according to the Pentagon.

It has expressed frustration with both Pyongyang's repeated nuclear and missile tests and with behaviour from South Korea and the United States that it sees as escalating tensions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday the joint drills are defensive in nature and not meant to raise tensions on the peninsula.

"We're at a stage of tensions that we have not seen for years", Markey told The Wall Street Journal yesterday. North Korea, for its part, threatened to launch missiles toward the American territory of Guam before Kim Jong Un said he would first watch how Washington acts before going ahead with the missile launch plan.

The United States has not backed down.

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