Fresh Threats From Pyongyang As Joint Military Exercise Begins

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Earlier in the day, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that upcoming Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise will be played out on a similar scale to that of previous year, that is, with approximately 50,000 South Korean troops joining 20,000 US troops and smaller contingents from seven other countries that are part of the United Nations command in South Korea.

A report Pyongyang has earned millions of dollars in exports seemed likely, meanwhile, to raise doubts about the impact of sanctions to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Moon told a cabinet meeting that the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) is an annually-held joint military exercise that is defensive in nature, saying South Korea has no intention to escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Last month North Korea test-launched two ICBMs at highly lofted angles, and outside experts say those missiles can reach Alaska, Los Angeles or Chicago if fired at normal, flattened trajectories.

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"North Korea wants to threaten the United States with a nuclear strike, not actually conduct one, so determining the exact size of North Korea's stockpile of nuclear warheads is far less urgent than de-escalating tensions", she said.

"The situation on the Korean peninsula has plunged into a critical phase due to the reckless north-targeted war racket of the war maniacs". President Trump has raised the temperature by warning, "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen". He later tweeted that a military solution was "locked and loaded" after leader Kim Jong Un was said to be considering a provocative launch of missiles into waters near the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.

North Korea claims it has successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon.

It apparently reflects Washington's alertness against North Korea's rapid development of nuclear bombs and missiles. Twenty-eight thousand USA troops are still stationed in South Korea. Mattis warned that if North Korea launched a missile towards Guam, the United States or USA allies Japan and South Korea, "we would take immediate, specific actions to take it down".

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"If the U.S. president did move unilaterally in a circumstance like that, against the [wishes] of a South Korean president, the U.S. -ROK defense alliance would be over in a heartbeat", he said.

The Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on August 5 that could slash its $3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

But some in Tokyo worry that Washington's commitment to Japan's interests could waver if the USA reaches a deal with China or North Korea directly. Despite the threat, US and South Korean militaries launched this year's 11-day training today morning as scheduled. But the ministry of south Korean Defense announced the participation of 17,500 troops, a decrease compared to the 25 000 GI's edition 2016.

Other South Korean allies are also joining this year, with troops from Australia, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and New Zealand taking part.

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