- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2017

The top U.S. military officer and the senior American commander in South Korea vowed to press ahead with planned military drills with Seoul this month, despite claims by the North that such exercises are a direct threat to the regime in Pyongyang.

“The exercises remain important to us and we’ll continue to move forward,” Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said Monday during a press conference at command headquarters alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

The annual joint exercise dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian is slated to begin on Aug. 21 and will involve a number of the 28,000 U.S. troops based in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, as well as their counterparts in the South Korean military.

Gen. Dunford is in South Korea as part of a diplomatic visit to the peninsula and China, in an attempt to soothe tensions in the Pacific, spurred by North Korea’s continued provocations via its nuclear weapons programs. President Trump’s bellicose threats to rain “fire and fury” on Pyongyang should it threaten U.S. interests in the region have only fueled such tensions in recent weeks.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Pentagon has developed military options should North Korea attempt to launch attacks against U.S. territories in the Pacific — namely U.S. military sites in Guam — telling reporters that department leaders had a “military solution” for Pyongyang in place.

On Monday, Gen. Dunford told reporters that any military options being drafted to address the North Korean threat are geared toward supporting ongoing diplomatic efforts to quell the situation on the peninsula.

SEE ALSO: National security leaders tamp down ‘fire and fury,’ pursue pragmatic approach to North Korea

“The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort,” Gen. Dunford told reporters in Seoul. “It would be a horrible thing were a war to be conducted here on the peninsula, and that’s why we’re so focused on coming up with a peaceful way ahead.”

“Nobody’s looking for war,” the four-star general added. His comments echo those of White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and CIA chief Mike Pompeo, who took to the Sunday talk shows in an effort to cool the harsh rhetoric coming from President Trump.

“There’s nothing imminent,” Mr. Pompeo said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” “There’s no intelligence indicating we’re on the cusp of a nuclear war.”

For his part, Mr. McMaster lauded the new round of economic sanctions handed down against the North by members of the United Nations Security Council, targeting North Korea’s major exports such as coal, iron and seafood, in response to the July tests. But he also noted that the new sanctions needed time to take hold.

“It [reining in North Korea] demands a concerted effort by the United States, but with our allies and with all responsible nations,” he said. “And this is what you’ve seen the president do is bring together all nations.”

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