China, Russia begin naval drills near North Korea

Saul Bowman
September 23, 2017

The United States has military options for North Korea that do not put Seoul at grave risk, Washington's top defense official said Monday.

"We continue to press on the diplomatic level".

His comments follow a display of military might by the USA over the Korean Peninsula as four F-35B stealth fighters and two B-1B bombers flew across the region as a warning to Kim Jong-un.

The US military staged bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula and Russian Federation and China began naval exercises ahead of a UN General Assembly meeting on Tuesday where North Korea's nuclear threat is likely to loom large.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has openly warned the USA against doing just that, and has worked to use diplomacy and deterrence to counter Kim. He spoke with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on September 18, and, according to the State Department, the three ministers "affirmed and applauded" the sanctions on North Korea, and "called for continuing worldwide action" to curtail North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Long gas lines forming in North Korea.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday the U.N. Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea's nuclear program and that the United States might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.

The U.S. and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed "North Korea's continued defiance of the worldwide community and its efforts to destabilize Northeast Asia" by phone, the White House said.

Mattis and Onodera also agreed that North Korea's threats call for a "strong demonstration of a unified front between the United States, Japan, and South Korea", and they also "agreed on the importance of robust trilateral defense cooperation between the three nations".

"Kinetic options" refers to the use of deadly force.

Asked why the USA did not attempt a shoot-down of the missiles that overflew Japan, Mattis on Monday played down the threat. But there are still no signs of the North halting its relentless provocations.

But, he said, any future missile launch that threatens USA or Japanese territory will "elicit a different response from us".

"To the contrary, it just adds to tensions and makes achieving the goal of de-nuclearization on the peninsula appear more complicated and hard to resolve", the Chinese official added, responding to a question about Mattis' comments at a regular briefing.

China has in the past been a key supporter of the North Korean communist regime, but that support may be dying out.

"The State Department expressed its understanding of South Koreans' concerns but was negative to the idea of redeploying tactical nukes out of concern about a possible escalation of regional tensions, and in line with the USA position toward denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula, they said in the statement.

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