US-South Korea set for divisive military drills

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 21 Aug 2017, 10:33:09
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US-South Korea set for divisive military drills

The US and South Korea are conducting annual military drills which consistently infuriate Pyongyang, despite appeals to halt the exercise.

Last week North Korea appeared to back down from a threat to send missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam, but said it would watch US actions, the BBC reports on Monday.

It has already condemned these drills as pouring "gasoline on fire".

Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.

China and Russia had in July proposed a halt on military exercises in exchange for a freeze on missile tests.

But Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the military exercises were "not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level" and the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises were going ahead as planned.

The US have said these exercises will involve about 17,500 US troops, largely involved in the computer simulation side of the drills. The exercises will last for about 10 days.

But after North Korea's threats on Guam and an almost unprecedented war of words over Pyongyang's repeated missile tests, analysts have warned that the joint drills may be seen as a provocation at a particularly sensitive time.

On Sunday an editorial in North Korea's official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun said the exercises would worsen the state of the peninsula and warned of an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

The US and South Korea hold two sets of war games every year, involving a massive number of troops and military hardware.

Foal Eagle/Key Resolve is usually held in spring, while Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) is in autumn.

Both involve land, sea, and air military drills and computer simulations. Held in South Korea, they have also involved practice drills for terror and chemical attacks in recent years.

South Korea usually deploys about 50,000 troops while the US typically sends 25,000 to 30,000 soldiers.

They can also sometimes involve troops from other allies - last year's UFG saw the participation of nine other countries.
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