North Korea warns against joint drills with South; U.S. deploys bombers

By Jennie Oh  |  Jan. 16, 2018 at 5:23 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter

SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- North Korean media has called for a complete halt of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States.

In a commentary published Tuesday, the North's propaganda outlet Uriminjokkiri pointed the finger at Seoul's joint military drills with the U.S. as a source of military tension, demanding they be completely ceased" if the South genuinely wishes to improve inter-Korean relations.

Seoul and Washington this month decided to postpone the annual springtime exercises until after the Pyeongchang Olympics and Paralympics are held from Feb. 9 to March 18.

This came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appealed for the delay, in hopes of defusing tensions on the peninsula during the Games and inducing North Korean athletes to take part.

However, the commentary said that postponing the drills isn't enough, branding the move "an act of pretense that doesn't reduce the provocative or invasive nature" of the exercises.

The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle war games involve some 17,000 U.S. troops and 300,000 South Koreans personnel training to deter threats from North Korea through land, sea and air military drills and computer simulation.

North Korea has long condemned the annual exercises as rehearsals for war and invasion.

Another state-run outlet, the Tongil Sinbo, also said the drills should be scrapped completely -- not only for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula but also as "a necessary step that is in Washington's interest."

The weekly warned that the U.S. mainland is still within the target range of the North's preemptive nuclear strikes.

According to NBC, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on Monday that if North Korea attacks, Washington will prove it has military options though "within a framework of strengthening the diplomat's hands."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Pacific Air Force announced six B-52H Stratofortress bombers and approximately 300 personnel from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are being deployed to the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

The move has largely been interpreted as a show of force against North Korea which claimed last year that its missiles could hit the U.S. island, some 2,131 miles away from Pyongyang.

Last week, the U.S. Air Force sent three stealth B-2 Spirit bombers to Guam as South and North Korean officials began discussions on the Winter Olympics.

The B-2 aircraft have stealth technology as well as the capacity to load nuclear weapons, unlike B-1B bombers also deployed in the Guam air base.

The U.S. Air Force said the B-52H deployment was part of a routine mission which "demonstrates the U.S. continued commitment to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region."

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories