As NKorea vows response, USA dismisses calls to pause drills

Paterniano Del Favero
Agosto 25, 2017

Since early this month, North Korea has been threatening to fire four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles near the American island, which hosts strategic USA military bases.

"If anything, the joint exercises must be strengthened", Cheon Seongwhun, who served as a national security adviser to former conservative South Korean President Park Geun-hye, said in an interview.

North Korea and the United States clashed at a U.N. forum on Tuesday over their military intentions towards one another, with Pyongyang's envoy declaring it would "never" put its nuclear deterrent on the negotiating table.

In a statement dated two days ago, North Korea's official news agency said the Australian Government should be focused on maintaining the peace of its own country, instead of joining the United States in moves towards nuclear war.

While North Korea later said it was holding off firing toward Guam, tension remains high and annual joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea beginning on Monday are likely to enrage Pyongyang.

There have been calls in both the United States and South Korea to postpone or modify the drills in an attempt to ease hostility on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea's threat to lob missiles toward the USA territory of Guam.

About 25,000 US service members joined last year's UFG drills. Impoverished North Korea hates the annual drills in part because they force it to respond with expensive military measures of its own.

Pyongyang threatened to fire a salvo of missiles towards the USA territory of Guam - a plan that leader Kim Jong-Un last week delayed, but warned could go ahead depending on Washington's next move.

But North Korea sees them as provocative and hostile, perhaps even preparation for an invasion.

Last month North Korea test-launched two ICBMs at highly lofted angles, and outside experts say those missiles can reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at normal, flattened trajectories.

If this is right, expect the usual propaganda belligerence in state media or low-level provocations like artillery and short-range missile drills.

"[Mr Kim] said that if the Yankees persist in their extremely unsafe, reckless actions on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity, testing the self-restraint of the DPRK, the latter will make an important decision as it already declared, warning the U.S. that it should think reasonably and judge properly not to suffer shame that it is hit by the DPRK again".

The exercises, which are due to last for 11 days, normally prompt some form of weapons test by North Korea.

There are calls in both the United States and South Korea for the allies to pause or downsize the joint military exercises to reduce strain and potentially persuade North Korea into talks to freeze its nuclear program.

"North Korea is probably looking at all the cards it has to maximize pressure against the United States, and the drills provide a good opportunity to do it", Cheon said.

"Smart military planning means ensuring that exercises do not enflame an already tense situation", Wright said. The allies have said the drills are defensive in nature.

The exercises, created to improve South Korea's defence, are carried out to recognise the treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States signed in 1953.

Moon said North Korea's development of nuclear weapons technology was "nearing" a red line, which he described as "completing an ICBM and weaponizing it with a nuclear head".

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