S.Korea, US begin annual military drills

North Korea tensions: 'Dangerous' timing as US and South Korea prepare for military exercise

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday the joint drills are defensive in nature and not meant to raise tensions on the peninsula.

North Korea has long accused the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian drills and larger springtime joint exercises of raising tensions and has offered to freeze its nuclear and missile tests if they are suspended.

As expected, Pyongyang responded harshly to the drills.

Military leaders stress these defensive drills are needed to maintain operational readiness, but there are concerns that a show of force could again aggravate tensions in the region, after the US and North Korea recently came to the brink of conflict over a possible missile test targeting the Guam region.

History tells us that North Korea reacts harshly to US-South Korean exercises.

Pyongyang's state media on Sunday called this year's drills a "reckless" move that could trigger the "uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war".

But South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the allies were mulling scrapping an initial plan to bring in two aircraft carriers to the peninsula to take part in the drill.

"The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us and no one can guarantee that the exercise won't evolve into actual fighting", said an editorial in the Rodong Sinmun, the official daily of the Korean People's Party.

The US military newspaper Stars and Stripes acknowledged their "heightened fears that this year's UFG exercise may spark a new crisis" after Kim left open his threat to fire missiles into waters near Guam. Neither the one next week or a large one usually held in March would impact USA readiness, and they could be replaced with more targeted drills that focus on command and control systems, he said. According to the South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo, the following scenario, among others, is being tested during the exercise: In a potential military operation, how to carry out a preventive strike against the North Korean leadership. A little later, the communist country conducted its fifth nuclear test. Military exercises are "not now on the table as part of the negotiations in any way".

His comments about averting war echoed similar statements he made Tuesday that only South Korea could give consent to initiate any conflict with the North. For what is viewed as a routine annual joint military exercise by the United States and South Korea is viewed as anything but routine (or defensive) by North Korea.

Despite the threat, US and South Korean militaries launched this year's 11-day training on Monday morning as scheduled.

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