Korean peninsula draws range of military drills ahead of UN meet

BEIJING/SEOUL: The US military staged bombing drills with South Korea over the Korean peninsula and Russia 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.
The flurry of military drills came after Pyongyang fired another mid-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday and the reclusive North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 in defiance of United Nations sanctions and other international pressure.
A pair of US B-1B bombers and four F-35 jets flew from Guam and Japan and joined four South Korean F-15K fighters in the latest drill, South Korea’s defence ministry said.
The joint drills were being conducted “two to three times a month these days”, Defence Minister Song Young-moo told a parliamentary hearing on Monday.
In Beijing, the official Xinhua news agency said China and Russia began naval drills off the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok, not far from the Russia-North Korea border.
Those drills were being conducted between Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok, and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan, it said.
The drills are the second part of China-Russian naval exercises this year, the first part of which was staged in the Baltic in July. Xinhua did not directly link the drills to current tension over North Korea.
China and Russia have repeatedly called for a peaceful solution and talks to resolve the issue.
On Sunday, however, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the UN Security Council had run out of options on containing North Korea’s nuclear programme and the United States might have to turn the matter over to the Pentagon.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the most pressing task was for all parties to enforce the latest UN resolutions on North Korea fully, rather than “deliberately complicating the issue”.
Military threats from various parties have not promoted a resolution to the issue, he said.
“This is not beneficial to as final resolution to the peninsula nuclear issue,” Lu told a daily news briefing.
US President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be able to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.
Asked about Trump’s warning last month that the North Korean threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”, Haley said: “It was not an empty threat.”
Washington has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbour and ally, while Beijing has urged the United States to refrain from making threats against the North.
The UN Security Council unanimously passed a US-drafted resolution a week ago mandating tougher new sanctions against Pyongyang that included banning textile imports and capping crude and petrol supply.
North Korea on Monday called the resolution “the most vicious, unethical and inhumane act of hostility to physically exterminate” its people, system and government. — Reuters