wnol.info March 24 2018

Top US military official arrives South Korea amid North Korea tension

March 24 2018, 08:04 | Irvin Gilbert

President Moon Jae-in will meet with Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Blue House on Monday amid heightened tensions on the peninsula aggravated by the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington over the past week. Today, Deputy Unification Minister Chun Haesung said South Korea was seeking to ease tensions and the door for dialogue with North Korea was still open.

He said the USA forces' priority was to support its government's diplomatic and economic pressure efforts for the denuclearised peninsula, noting that military options were being prepared for the failed efforts.

USA military spokesman Capt. Darryn James said Dunford "stressed that North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program threaten the entire global community". "What we would do in the event of an attack on Guam - or missiles being launched towards Guam - is a decision that will ... be made by the president of the United States and he will make that in the context of our alliance", the chairman said.

"The president noted the current security conditions on the Korean Peninsula constituted a more serious, real and urgent threat than ever created by the advancement in North Korea's nuclear and missile technologies", his spokesman, Park Soo-hyun, said after the meeting.

Nearly all - 90 per cent - of North Korea's exports are to China, with coal accounting for 50 per cent of that trade. "Our job - General Brooks and I - is to make sure our leadership has options available to them to properly respond".

Meanwhile, China has signalled it will halt iron, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea starting on Tuesday, following the United Nations resolution on sanctions.

Dunford previously stressed to reporters, however, that the United States is "seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis", local media reported. It would then be up to leader Kim Jong-un as to when to fire the missiles-during the exercises, conceivably.

Washington is insistent on maximizing economic sanctions and keeping up pressure on the North to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Since the Global Times has served as an unofficial channel conveying China's policy, its editorial can be seen a message to Pyongyang that China will not object to US surgical strikes against the North's missile sites in response to Pyongyang's launch of missiles targeting USA territory.

The upcoming military exercises by the US and South Korea occur every year. The US has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

The Combined Forces Command is truly a combined command, Brooks said - USA and South Korean forces are integrated in a manner not seen anywhere else in the world. Pyongyang has claimed that the exercise is a rehearsal for an invasion.

Though the USA military is "always locked and loaded", the administration is now taking "all possible actions short of military action" to tackle the North Koran threats, including "a very determined diplomatic effort", the general said. "They may continue launching missile tests but they don't want a war, and the USA doesn't want military action either".

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser HR McMaster said he did not think the sides were closer to war than a week ago, while CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he saw no intelligence to suggest the sides were on the cusp of a nuclear war.

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