SEOUL (Reuters) – Two heavy US B-1B bombers joined large-scale combat exercises on South Korea on Thursday amid North Korean warnings that US exercises and threats have turned the outbreak of the war in "an established fact". 19659002] An F-35A Lightning II of the US Air Force assigned to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, conducts a training flight with F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea over the city of Gunsan, in Korea from the south. Courtesy of Josh Rosales / U.S. Air Force / Handout via REUTERS
Annual "Vigilant Ace" exercises from the USA UU And South Korea has 230 aircraft, including some of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the United States, and arrive a week after North Korea tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date, which says it can reach to all the United States.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Korea blamed the drills and "confrontational warmongering" by US officials. UU To make war inevitable.
"The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?" He said in a statement. "We do not want a war, but we should not hide from it."
China, North Korea's neighbor and only important ally, urged calm again and said the war was not the answer, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said North Korea wanted talks direct with the United States to seek guarantees on their safety, something that Moscow was willing to facilitate.
"We hope that all relevant parties can remain calm and restrained and take measures to relieve tensions and not provoke each other," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
"The outbreak of war is not in the interest of any side, the common people will suffer the most".
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a conference in Vienna that US military exercises and aggressive rhetoric were causing an unacceptable escalation in tension.
Lavrov said that he had moved on to Tillerson Pyongyang's desire to have direct talks.
"We know that North Korea wants above all to speak with the United States about guarantees for its security, we are ready to support that, we are ready to participate in the facilitation of such negotiations," Lavrov said, quoted by the news agency Interfax.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said direct talks with North Korea "were not on the table until they were willing to denuclearize."
"It's something that Russia says it agrees with, it's something that China has said it agrees with, and many other nations around the world too," he told a regular press conference.
Nauert said North Korea "showed no interest in sitting down and having serious talks when they continue firing ballistic missiles."
China's deputy foreign minister Zheng Zeguang would meet with Matt Pottinger, the head of Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, on Thursday to discuss North Korea and trade, an official said. high American official.
A US soldier participates in an aerial drone exercise called "Vigilant Ace". between the United States and South Korea, at the Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on December 6, 2017. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji
Tensions have increased markedly in recent months over the development of North Korea, in defiance of the repeated rounds of UN sanctions, of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Last week's missile test triggered a warning from the USA. UU That the leadership of North Korea would be "completely destroyed" if the war broke out. The Pentagon has mounted repeated shows of strength after the North Korean tests.
In September, after North Korea's sixth and largest nuclear test, B-1B flew further north along the North Korean coast than at any other time in the past 17 years. The departure prompted Pyongyang's foreign minister to warn that US bombers could be shot down even if they did not enter North Korean airspace.
Yang Uk, a member of the Korea Defense and Security Forum, said that while the B-1Bs did not carry nuclear weapons, they would be key to any attack against the main facilities in North Korea.
"The B-1B bombers have been dispatched regularly to the Korean peninsula in recent years, however, it seems that the US Air Force could have improved their training to better prepare for the real war," He said.
Both parties insist that they do not want war, while saying they will act to defend themselves.
U.S. National security adviser HR McMaster said at the weekend that the possibility of a war "increases every day." He said Trump was prepared to take action against North Korea, but was working to convince China, Russia and others to pressure Pyongyang to give up its weapons programs.
U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday urged the Pentagon to start moving US military dependents from South Korea, saying the conflict with North Korea was nearing.
The Pentagon said it had no "intention" to move any dependents.
On Wednesday, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, raised doubts about the participation of the United States. UU At the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, and told Fox News that Washington was concerned about its citizens.
However, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Thursday that the United States hoped to participate in the games and pledged to South Korea and other nations to secure the venues.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States and says that its weapons programs are necessary to counter the US aggression. UU The United States has 28,500 troops in the south, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Growing tensions coincide with a rare visit to North Korea by UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman, the highest-level UN official visiting North Korea since 2012.
Some analysts and diplomats expect their visit to provoke a UN effort to ease tensions. Feltman met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Thursday, the official KCNA news agency in North Korea said.
Additional reports by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, Christian Shepherd in Beijing, Steve Holland, David Brunnstrom and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Dmitry Antonov and Christian Lowe in Moscow; Edition of Andrew Hay and James Dalgleish
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