U.S. says joint S.Korea war games not on
the negotiating table
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[August 17, 2017]
By Michael Martina and Christine Kim
BEIJING/SEOUL (Reuters) - The United States
and South Korea will go ahead with joint military drills next week, the
top U.S. military official said on Thursday, resisting pressure from
North Korea and its ally China to halt the contentious exercises.
North Korea's rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles
capable of reaching the U.S. mainland has fueled a rise in tensions in
U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea last week it would face
"fire and fury" if it threatened the United States, prompting North
Korea to say it was considering plans to fire missiles at the U.S.
Pacific territory of Guam.
Annual military drills involving tens of thousands of U.S. and South
Korean troops are due to begin on Monday.
North Korea views such exercises as preparations to invade it.
China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has urged the United
States and South Korea to scrap the drills in exchange for North Korea
calling a halt to its weapons programs.
Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the
exercises were "not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at
"My advice to our leadership is that we not dial back our exercises. The
exercises are very important to maintaining the ability of the alliance
to defend itself," Dunford told reporters in Beijing after meeting his
"As long as the threat in North Korea exists, we need to maintain a high
state of readiness to respond to that threat," he said.
Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China's powerful Central Military
Commission, told Dunford that China believed the only effective way to
resolve the issue was through talks.
"China believes that dialogue and consultations are the only effective
avenue to resolve the peninsula issue, and that military means cannot
become an option," China's Defence Ministry cited Fan as saying.
Asked to respond to the criticism that China's "dual suspension"
proposal to halt the U.S. military drills with South Korea and the
North's missile tests made a false equivalence between the two, Foreign
Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was the most realistic and
"To ease the tense situation created by tit-for-tat escalations, to halt
this vicious cycle, there is a need to put aside the dispute over who
goes first and who goes second," she said, speaking at a regular
North Korea has in the past fired missiles and taken other steps in
response to such exercises.
Arriving in Tokyo on Thursday, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, William
Hagerty, said America's ability to defend itself and its allies against
North Korea was "beyond question".
He reaffirmed Washington's commitment to its alliance with Tokyo, a
security pact he described as "ironclad."
Allies the United States and South Korea remain technically at war with
North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a
North Korea conducted what it said were two successful intercontinental
ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July, further raising tension after
its four and fifth nuclear tests in 2016.
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South Korean Army K1A1 and U.S. Army M1A2 tanks fire live rounds
during a U.S.-South Korea joint live-fire military exercise, at a
training field, near the demilitarized zone, separating the two
Koreas in Pocheon, South Korea April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. and South Korean officials have for months been expecting a
sixth nuclear test.
"I would consider that North Korea is crossing a red line if it
launches an intercontinental ballistic missile again and weaponises
it by putting a nuclear warhead on top," South Korean President Moon
Jae-in said at a news conference in Seoul marking his first 100 days
Moon has repeatedly urged North Korea not to "cross the red line"
but had not previously elaborated what that would constitute.
Trump had promised to seek negotiations and approval from South
Korea before taking any options regarding North Korea, Moon also
The United States has said it prefers global diplomatic action to
stop North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs but it is
ready to use force if needed.
However, chief White House strategist Steve Bannon said there was
"no military solution" to North Korea's nuclear threats because of
the North's massed artillery targeting the South Korean capital.
"Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that
10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from
conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about,
there's no military solution here, they got us," Bannon told The
Bannon said he was pushing the U.S. administration to take a harder
line on China trade and not put complaints against its trade
practices in the back seat in the hope it would help restrain the
North's leader, Kim Jong Un.
"To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be
maniacally focused on that," The American Prospect quoted Bannon as
North Korean media reported on Tuesday that Kim had delayed the
decision on firing four missiles towards Guam, a U.S. territory home
to an air base and Navy facility, while he waited to see what the
United States did next.
"Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned
decision," Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "The alternative
would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!"
H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security adviser, met Japan's
defense and foreign ministers in Washington on Wednesday to discuss
the importance of deterring North Korea and Japan's ballistic
missile defenses, according to the Japanese government.
(Additional reporting by Philip Wen, Christian Shepherd and Ben
Blanchard in BEIJING, and Linda Sieg in TOKYO; Writing by Lincoln
Feast; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)
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