Threats mar US, S Korea war games

The Myanmar Times - - World -

TENS of thou­sands of South Korean and Amer­i­can troops be­gan a mil­i­tary ex­er­cise sim­u­lat­ing an all-out North Korean attack yes­ter­day, as Py­ongyang threat­ened a pre-emp­tive strike on forces par­tic­i­pat­ing in the drill.

The two-week an­nual Ulchi Free­dom ex­er­cise is largely computer-sim­u­lated, but still in­volves 50,000 South Korean and 30,000 United States sol­diers.

The drill al­ways trig­gers a spike in ten­sions on the di­vided Korean penin­sula, and this year it co­in­cides with par­tic­u­larly volatile cross-bor­der re­la­tions fol­low­ing a se­ries of high-pro­file de­fec­tions.

On Au­gust 21, the Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry in Seoul urged all cit­i­zens to be on guard against “North Korean ter­ror threats” and warned of pos­si­ble as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts on de­fec­tors and anti-Py­ongyang ac­tivists in the South.

Ulchi Free­dom plays out a full-scale in­va­sion sce­nario by nu­clear-armed North Korea and both Seoul and Washington in­sist it re­mains purely de­fen­sive in na­ture.

Py­ongyang views the drill as wil­fully provoca­tive and the Korean Peo­ple’s Army (KPA) is­sued a state­ment yes­ter­day, threat­en­ing a mil­i­tary re­sponse to what it de­scribed as a re­hearsal for a sur­prise nu­clear attack and in­va­sion of the North.

The slight­est vi­o­la­tion of North Korea’s ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty dur­ing the mil­i­tary drill would re­sult in the source of the provo­ca­tion be­ing turned “into a heap of ashes through Kore­anstyle pre-emp­tive nu­clear strike”, the spokesper­son said.

Py­ongyang has made sim­i­lar threats in the past, but an­a­lysts say the risk of an un­in­tended in­ci­dent es­ca­lat­ing into a mil­i­tary clash is higher this year given the lack of di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two Koreas.

As ten­sions rose in the wake of North Korea’s fourth nu­clear test in Jan­uary, Py­ongyang shut down the two ex­ist­ing hot­lines with South Korea – one used by the mil­i­tary and one used for gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions. –

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