Published: Mon, August 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

South Korea and United States troops start drills amid Pyongyang nuclear war threat

South Korea and United States troops start drills amid Pyongyang nuclear war threat

The manoeuvres come amid a war of words between the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and and the US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to unleash "fire and fury" if America and its allies are threatened.

As two dozen Australian troops prepare to join in 10 days of annual war games, North Korea have warned the U.S. "they're pouring gasoline on fire" by holding the drill in South Korea.

Combative rhetoric between the nations spiked after Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) last month that appeared to bring much of the U.S. within range, sparking an intense warning by President Donald Trump that Washington could rain "fire and fury" on the North.

On the eve of the UFG drills, North Korea said the USA was "pouring gasoline on fire".

The annual drills antagonize Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion.

"No one can guarantee that the exercise won't evolve into actual fighting", North Korea claimed in the editorial, according to a South Korean news agency.

The August 21 to August 31 exercises involve computer simulations created to prepare for the unthinkable: war with nuclear-capable North Korea.

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

"You can expand a certain area to see what troops are in what sort of status and where they will move", said Park.

Around 17,500 U.S. troops will participate in this year's drills, which represents a reduction from last year.

Called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), the joint drills have their roots in a 1968 raid on South Korea's Blue House presidential complex, when Unit 124 of the North Korean army secretly entered South Korea and unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the then president, Park Chung-hee. The North responded by threatening to fire missiles towards the US Pacific island territory of Guam.

US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris arrived in the South on Sunday to inspect the exercises and discuss growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

Two dozen Australian troops have touched down in South Korea for the annual war games. "We have a U.S. -ROK military alliance in which under existing protocols and doctrine military action has to be approved by both presidents".

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis said last week that though diplomatic means remain the preferred route to deal with the crisis, military options remain on the table.

China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has urged the United States and South Korea to scrap the drills and so has Russian Federation.

They also say the exercises are necessary to strengthen their readiness in case of an external attack.

"Are we trying to publicise them and put some kind of military psychological pressure on (North Korea) or will we keep it low key and business like?"

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