US, South Korea joint drills unsafe: Pyongyang

North Korea had threatened to fire a missile into the waters off Guam, a U.S. territory that holds two major USA military bases.

"This is aimed to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula at any cost", the North's KCNA news agency said.

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

In 2005, North Korea reached an agreement with six countries to suspend its nuclear program in return for diplomatic rewards and energy assistance but the deal later collapsed.

A USA 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. About 17,500 U.S. service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 previous year, according to the Pentagon.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, were purely defensive and did not aim to increase tension on the peninsula, but North Korea denounced the exercises as preparation for war.

"We think that South Korea and the United States holding joint drills is not beneficial to easing current tensions or efforts by all sides to promote talks", she told a daily news briefing.

Pyongyang has sent another threat to Washington, DC in light of the United States and South Korea's joint military exercise that will take place this week.

Combative rhetoric between the nations spiked after Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) last month that appeared to bring much of the U.S. within range, sparking an intense warning by President Donald Trump that Washington could rain "fire and fury" on the North. Training exercises like Ulchi Freedom Guardian are carried out in the spirit of the October 1, 1953, South Korean-U.S.

"If the enemy provokes, (our military) will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret bitterly", said Jeong, who was inaugurated on Sunday (Aug 20).

Also referenced was Malaysia's report in March to an global body regarding "the use of a chemical warfare agent, VX" in the alleged assassination of Kim Jong Nam, widely believed to be the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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 United States may be making a subtle move to build a reconciliatory mood after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un toned down his verbal attack. What's worrisome is that mainstream USA media like The New York Times and Washington Post also began to join the chorus.

Impoverished North Korea hates the drills in part because it must frequently respond with its own expensive displays of military might. The latest sanctions were imposed after North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane takes off on the runway at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

"North Korea will conduct a sixth nuclear test in order to bring the United States to negotiations", said Yoo Ho-yeol, professor of unification and diplomacy at Seoul's Korea University.

It's nearly certain that this year's drills will trigger some kind of reaction from North Korea.



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