US Military Drills in South Korea Continues
By Faith Magbanua, August 22, 2017 00:08 AM
Despite the growing tension between North Korea and US, the annual military drills held in South Korea continues, which consistently infuriates Pyongyang despite its appeals to halt the exercise.
As of last week, the threats to send missiles to the US Pacific Island of Guam given by North Korea have been taken back, but the country said it would watch the US' next actions.
However, despite the tension between the two countries, US still conducted the drill, thus described as pouring "gasoline on fire".
Washington describes the drills as defensive in nature, but the North sees them as preparation for invasion.
Meanwhile, China and Russia had proposed in July 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 drill, which will last for 10 days, will involve about 17,500 US troops and 50,000 South Korean troops.
After North Korea's threats against 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.
However, on Sunday, an editorial in North Korea's official government newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said that the exercises would "worsen" the state of the peninsula and warned of an "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".
On the other hand, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in responded on Monday that Pyongyang should not use the exercises "as a pretext for aggravating the situation", according to a report given by Yonhap news agency.
A number of protests occurred this Monday opposing South Korea for allowing the drill to continue despite the "nuclear threats" from its northern neighbor.
On the contrary, depending on the political climate, the drills have - at times - aggravated tensions between the two sides.
In 2015, when he UFG drill took place amid high tensions, it resulted in North and South Korean military exchanging artillery fire across the border.
Military officials took the unusual step of halting the UFG while emergency talks were held between the North and South. The drill resumed several days later.
However, US and South Korea said that the exercises are purely for defense purposes, and based out of a mutual defense agreement that they signed in 1953, which also serves as a precautionary measure incase an attack might happen.
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