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ROK-US drills start amid tension

Zoom  Zoom Issue Date:2017-08-31   Browse:434
Pyongyang has denounced move as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion
SEOUL - The combined forces of the Republic of Korea and the United States on Monday kicked off their joint annual war game that could re-raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The annually-held Ulchi Freedom Guardian was scheduled to last through Aug 31, local media reported.
The computer-assisted simulation exercise would mobilize about 17,500 US troops, including 3,000 reinforcements from outside the ROK. It was lower than last year's 25,000 US soldiers.
Around 28,500 US troops are stationed in the ROK as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
From the ROK side, about 50,000 forces would join the military exercise. It was the same as last year's.
It was not known whether any US strategic weapon, such as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and nuclear-capable bombers, would be mobilized.
The war game could re-escalate the eased tensions on the peninsula as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has denounced it as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.
ROK peace activists on Monday demanded a halt to the drills. Gathering outside the presidential Blue House, they said the DPRK's nuclear and missile tests would be stopped through dialogue only when the UFG joint military exercise is stopped.
Seoul and Washington claimed their joint war games, including the "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" springtime joint military exercises, to be defensive in nature.
Tensions eased after US President Donald Trump said last week that top DPRK leader Kim Jon-un made a "wise and well reasoned" decision not to fire missiles targeting the waters off the US island of Guam.
According to the DPRK's official KCNA news agency, Kim had decided to delay the missile launch to wait and see what the US would do next.
Before the suspended exchange of belligerent rhetoric, tensions mounted on the peninsula amid the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.
Trump had warned the DPRK that the country would be met with "fire and fury" if it continues threats to Washington.
In response, the DPRK warned that it could fire four ballistic missiles toward the Pacific island of Guam, leading to Trump's warning that the US military was "locked and loaded".
Moon's pledge
To mark 100 days in office, ROK President Moon Jae-in told a nationally televised news conference on Thursday that there would never be another war on the peninsula.
Moon pledged to prevent war from breaking out by all means, reiterating his earlier comments. He emphasized the need to resume dialogue with the DPRK for peace and a denuclearized peninsula.
Air Force General Jeong Kyeong-doo, newly appointed chairman of ROK's Joint Chief of Staff, said in the parliamentary confirmation hearing last week that it would be important to dissuade Pyongyang from its possession of nuclear weapons through dialogue and pressure.
Jeong said the eventual goal was a denuclearized peninsula, but he noted that the freezing of the DPRK's nuclear program would be necessary in the middle stage as the eventual goal would be hard to achieve at a short time.
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