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US, South Korean Troops Drill Amid Standoff with North

22 August 2017

"In the case of North Korea, we can't see everything in real time but the military deduces the locations of North Korean troops, including the leadership during the exercise".

The Kim Jong-un regime said it can not avoid a "ruthless retaliation" as the allies have disregarded its warnings, warranting "merciless punishment", a statement released by the North Korean KCNA news agency said. About 17,500 US service members will participate, with about 3,000 coming from installations outside South Korea.

"In the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, the United States, Korea (South Korea), we would take immediate specific actions to take it down", Mattis said.

"In order to make a nuclear weapon deployable it has to be small and light, but North Korea doesn't seem to have this technology", he said.

That sparked a grim warning by President Donald Trump that Washington could rain "fire and fury" on the North. Leader Kim Jong-Un last week delayed the Guam strike plan, but warned it could go ahead depending on Washington's next move.

About 17,500 US service members are participating in the exercise this month, down from 25,000 a year ago, according to the Pentagon.

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The US-South Korean exercise, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, will involve about 17,500 US servicemen, including 3,000 from outside South Korea, the Pentagon said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged North Korea not to resort to any provocation as a joint war game with the United States kicked off.

Far from the dusty firing ranges just south of the heavily fortified border with North Korea, US and South Korean troops hunch over laptops and screens wearing earphones and camouflaged combat uniforms, according to photos of past UFG drills on the United States Forces Korea website.

The allies' Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise will kick off on Monday and run until Aug 31.

The United States also describes them as "defensive in nature", a term North Korean state media has dismissed as a "deceptive mask".

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.

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The same exercises in 2016 provoked North Korea to conduct nuclear tests.

Not long after the Australian prime minister had stated that they would join in the aggressive moves of the U.S., even referring to ANZUS which exists in name only, the Australian military announced that they would dispatch their troops to the aggressive nuclear exercises of the US.

'The U.S. -South Korean drills aren't a sacred realm, ' the newspaper said, referring to the time that Washington and Seoul agreed to cancel their large-scale Team Spirit drills in the early 1990s to induce the North to join denuclearization talks.

The United States has about 28,000 troops in South Korea. During last year's Ulchi drills, North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile that flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in the longest flight by that type of weapon.

There's media speculation that the allies might try to keep this year's drills low-key by not dispatching long-range bombers and other USA strategic assets to the region.

South Korea believes North Korea will need at least another one or two more years to obtain that re-entry technology, Seoul's vice defense minister said on Sunday.

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