Number of American troops participating in Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise to decrease

North Korea 'Nuclear War' Warning Ahead of Joint US-South Korea Military Exercises

Called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the joint drills will take place from August 21 to August 31 and involve computer simulations created to prepare for the unthinkable: war with nuclear-capable North Korea. The state-run Korean Central News Agency this week called them "reckless saber-rattling" and warned that they could spark an accidental war.

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

However, in the event that North Korea and the US conducted secret negotiations to reduce the scale of the UFG following North Korea's recent threats of missile strikes around Guam, it seems possible that the scale of the joint military exercise has decreased. Edward J. Markey, who is now leading a congressional delegation in Korea, China and Japan, said the USA should consider modifying the drills if North Korea agrees to freeze its weapons programs. Last year's exercise is known to have had a total of 25,000 USA troops, including 2,500 overseas reinforcements. He says the drills are held regularly because of repeated provocations by North Korea.

"If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise".

"There's a lot we can do (through diplomacy) to bring the tension down without undermining the security of South Korea or USA", said Robert S. Ross, a Boston College political science professor.

"This right now is an exercise to make certain that we're ready to defend South Korea and our allies over there", he added.

Pyongyang threatened to fire a salvo of missiles towards the U.S. territory of Guam - a plan that leader Kim Jong-Un last week delayed, but warned could go ahead depending on Washington's next move. Most notably, Pyongyang said it might consider an attack on the area near the United States territory of Guam in the Western Pacific.

In this handout photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) firing a missile into the East Sea during a South Korea-U.S. joint missile drill aimed to counter North Korea's ICBM test on July 29, 2017, in East Coast, South Korea.

Some analysts see room for maneuver. US officials have pledged the military exercises will go ahead this week as planned. The move led to North Korea trading threats and warnings with the United States.

The U.S. has been burned before when it suspended military exercises.

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon.

In the 1990s, the large-scale Team Spirit exercises between the US and South Korea were canceled several times in a bid to get the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear program.

Still, that shouldn't stop the US from exploring a deal, said John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. "It is not something to do as a simple goodwill gesture".

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