Moon says even slight conflict on Korean Peninsula may threaten many lives

Frederick Owens
August 22, 2017

China on Monday renewed its call for the United States and South Korea to suspend joint military drills as the two nations began annual war games that have infuriated nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged North Korea not to resort to any provocation as a joint war game with the USA kicked off. But with Pyongyang nearing the finish line in its atomic weapons program, politicians and security experts in Seoul are calling for "a balancing act" to adapt to the new security environment on the Korean Peninsula: A North Korean nuclear weapon can only be deterred by a nuclear weapon - by either South Korea's own or the United States, they said.

-South Korean computer-simulated defensive exercise set to kick off tomorrow is meant to strengthen joint efforts for the defense of South Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today.

The U.S. leader said the North will be met by "fire and fury".

"Not long after the Australian prime minister had stated that they would join in the aggressive moves of the USA, even referring to ANZUS which exists in name only, the Australian military announced that they would dispatch their troops to the aggressive nuclear exercises of the USA", a North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said in a statement, released on the eve of the event.

"No one can guarantee that this will not escalate into a real war", it said, calling the annual drills a "rehearsal for nuclear war" and the "most naked expression of hostility" toward the North. "North Korea should not use this as a pretext for provocation".

The exercise between Seoul and Washington, which has been held since the 1970s, will be largely computer simulated and created to hone responses to any situation from conventional weapons to a nuclear war.

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North Korea responded to last year's Ulchi-Freedom Guardian by testing a nuclear weapon.

While the allies are pushing ahead with the exercises that date back to 1976, around 17,500 United States troops will participate in the drills - a cutback from past year.

"I think we should stick to the principle of denuclearization", Chairman of Joints Chief of Staff Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo told lawmakers on Friday, referring to the 1992 Joint Declaration on Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, in which the two Koreas pledged to stay away from atomic weapons.

Tensions between the USA and North Korea have grown in recent weeks.

"For the Trump administration, North Korea has become a more urgent issue than it was during the previous administrations", said Park Byung-gwang, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy.

The widely read state-run Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, wrote in an editorial that Beijing is not able to persuade either Washington or Pyongyang to back down.

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