North Korea Warns Australia That Aiding US Would Be 'Suicidal Act'

Around 17,500 US troops will participate in this year's drills

A United States official, who asked not to be named, said that while periodic activity has been seen at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, he had not seen movement there for over a month and there were no current signs of an imminent test.

A small number of Australian and British troops have been deployed to take part in the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, the annual 10-day joint computer-simulated drills between the United States and South Korea.

The two sides indicated they would cooperate to strengthen pressure on Pyongyang as the North continues to develop missile technology and nuclear weapons - perhaps the most significant outcome of the meeting.

North Korea on Sunday slammed the upcoming joint US-South Korea military exercise as an act of "adding fuel to the fire" on the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula. In July it test-launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles, placing U.S. cities in range of potential attack, according to United States experts.

Six B-1B "Lancer" bombers are on standby in the Pacific island of Guam in case Donald Trump decides to order a preemptive attack on North Korea's nuclear sites, says NBC News, citing four military sources.

Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general at the United Nations nuclear agency, said an arsenal of dozens of weapons might suggest North Korea seeks the capacity to retaliate in a nuclear war.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis says the US is ready for both offensive and defensive missions. With the USA and its allies primed militarily, a small incident, whether deliberate or accidental, has the potential to plunge the Korean Peninsula into a devastating war that draws in other nuclear powers such as China and Russian Federation. - wsws.

Earlier this month, 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. Its proven short- and medium-range missiles could reach South Korea and Japan.

"It reinforces the images of the strides North Korea made in missile capability and how North Korea is undaunted by any challenges to its sovereignty." he said. A half-dozen weapons would suggest pure deterrence, said Heinonen, who estimates that North Korea now has enough fissile material for up to 40 weapons - about 10 using plutonium and 30 using uranium.

South Korea and the United States began annual war games on Sunday, said U.S. forces, amid heated warnings by Pyongyang that the exercises will worsen tensions in the region.

"No.no.this is an exercise for the defense of Korea".

The commanders will reportedly make a tour of the new USFK base for the THAAD missile defense system in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, after inspecting the Ulchi Freedom Guardian combined exercise under way in Korea.

North Korea's two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month likely carried a payload lighter than any nuclear warhead it is now able to produce, the experts said.

The exercise involves 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the U.S. military command in South Korea and Seoul's Defense Ministry.

U.S. officials say the exercises are meant to ensure readiness for an attack by Kim Jong-un, but Pyongyang has characterised them as preparation for an invasion.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part.

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