US, South Korean Troops Drill Amid Standoff with North

Frederick Owens
August 22, 2017

Today's warning came a day ahead of the ten-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian military, a joint exercise with the US and South Korea. "Right now there is a heavy emphasis on command post operations, so the integration of all the different efforts", Mattis said.

Defence Secretary Mattis said that the United States would take immediate specific actions in the event of a missile launch towards U.S. or its allies.

Kim Jong-un's dictatorship tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month that appeared to bring much of the USA mainland within firing range of the rogue state.

And, the tensions were ratcheted up further when President Donald Trump made threats of fire and fury to North Korea.

"In the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, the United States, Korea (South Korea), we would take immediate specific actions to take it down", Mattis said.

The 10-day joint military exercise with South Korea has been condemned by Pyongyang as "reckless behaviour driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

"In terms of defence, we are joined at the hip", Mr Turnbull said.

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 a year ago. The South is fielding around 50,000 troops this year, similar to that of last year.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after the 1950-1953 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

"We are not changing the exercise based on any recent activities".

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The exercise is "a regularly scheduled, annual exercise and is the culmination of many months of planning", Marine Lt Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement earlier this week.

The drills are largely computer-simulated war games held every summer and have drawn furious responses from North Korea.

North Korea's rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled a surge in tension.

It was not known whether the United States forces would mobilise strategic assets such as nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and nuclear-capable bombers for the UFG war game.

"The latter would suggest that we think a low key approach might encourage NK restraint and eventually open a door to dialogue", he added in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Pyongyang views the annual exercise as a highly provocative rehearsal for a possible invasion of their territory.

"If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else's door far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever", it also said.

"This is a very important time for security in the region and of course we are mostly focused on the threat coming out of North Korea", Dunford said.

Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), stressed that the current security conditions on the peninsula are "more serious than at any other time" amid the North's fast-advancing nuclear and missile programs.

"We will continue that effort diplomatically, first and foremost", he said.

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