SEOUL (Reuters) – Two American B-1B heavy bombers joined large-scale combat drills over South Korea on Thursday amid warnings from North Korea that the exercises and U.S. threats have made the outbreak of war “an established fact”.
The annual U.S.-South Korean “Vigilant Ace” exercises feature 230 aircraft, including a range of the U.S. military’s most advanced stealth warplanes, and come a week after North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date which it says can reach the mainland United States.
A spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry blamed the drills and “confrontational warmongering” by U.S. officials for making war inevitable.
“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?” the spokesman said late on Wednesday in a statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it.”
China, North Korea’s neighbor and lone major ally, again urged calm and said war was not the answer.
“We hope all relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint and take steps to alleviate tensions and not provoke each other,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.
“The outbreak of war is not in any side’s interest. The ones that will suffer the most are ordinary people.” read more…
“While condemning Pyongyang’s nuclear missile adventurism, we cannot but condemn the provocative behavior of our American colleagues,” Lavrov said in an interview with Belarusian broadcaster STV. “Unfortunately, they are trying to drag the Japanese and South Koreans in the same direction, who… will be the first victims in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula.”
Earlier this week, North Korea carried out its first missile test in two months, firing an ICBM that allegedly can reach the US mainland. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, reacted to the test by urging more sanctions against Pyongyang and threatening that “if war comes… the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”
Lavrov reiterated that in September, the US made it clear that the next military exercises with South Korea were not to come until spring. Russia appreciated that and made efforts to work with Pyongyang to turn the lull into more lasting stability.
“There was a hint that in this situation, that this natural pause in the US-South Korean exercises could have been used by Pyongyang to avoid disturbing peace, as well, and conditions could be created for starting a dialogue,” the foreign minister said. Instead, the US suddenly announced it would be holding the drills in October, then November, then December. That, according to Lavrov, was probably what provoked Pyongyang.
“There’s a feeling that [the US was] intentionally provoking [North Korea’s] Kim Jong-un to break that pause, to fall for their provocation,” he said. read more…
NORTH KOREA’S LATEST MISSILE TEST WAS EVEN SCARIER THAN IT SEEMED
WHEN NORTH KOREA tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday, analysts quickly determined that the weapon would be able to reach any target in the continental United States. Further photo and video analysis since, though, indicate that the missile test represents an even greater advance in capabilities than analysts first thought. And as the international community grapples with the geopolitical implications, more North Korean missile sophistication means more tough questions for the country’s enemies.
Many analysts originally assumed that North Korea this week launched an improved version of a Hwasong-14 missile, the ICBM the country successfully tested twice in July. But North Korean photos and video show that while the rocket tested on Tuesday is a two-stage, liquid-fueled missile that has some similar features to the Hwasong-14, the latest effort is significantly larger, and has a first stage powered by two engines instead of one. The second stage also seems to have more propellant than the Hwasong-14.
A bigger and more powerful rocket can carry a heavier load farther, so analysts note that the new missile, dubbed the Hwasong-15, can likely carry a North Korean warhead as far as Kim Jong-un could want—including anywhere in the continental US. read more…
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