Between old foe and aggressive ally, no honeymoon for South Korea's Moon

According to the Blue House, General Dunford emphasized that the mission of US forces is to support Washington's efforts to diplomatically and economically pressure Pyongyang to denuclearize and that the "military option" is just in case those efforts fail.

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.

Talks on North Korea's nuclear program collapsed in 2009, and Kim has accelerated his efforts to obtain the ability to strike the USA with a nuclear weapon.

In the meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and other top officials Monday, Dunford "conveyed America's readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the USA homeland", said US military spokesman Capt. Darryn James.

Japan set up a missile-defense system in western areas of the country, following a threat by North Korea to fire missiles over Japan toward the US territory of Guam.

The trip follows a week in which President Donald Trump waged a war of words with North Korea, declaring the U.S. military "locked and loaded".

In response, Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told CNBC's Squawk on the Street, "You never know how the North Koreans are going react... especially Kim Jong-un, who's afraid of his own shadow, who is concerned about... being toppled, regime change".

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called on his USA allies to help prevent a war, amid worsening tension over the North's nuclear threat.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with senior military officials along with Moon, according to an official with South Korea's Blue House who asked not to be identified.

Less than six years into his reign, Kim has tested more missiles than his father and grandfather combined, conducted three nuclear tests, and is racing to develop a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the USA mainland.

"What matters is that if a second conflict (on the peninsula) erupts, that can not help but lead to a nuclear war", the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary.

He added that any changes to the USA posture in the region will be made in consultation with the Japanese government - who are also under threat from North Korea.

But this year the drills are being preceded by a number of threats and developments unique to 2017, including North Korea testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the continental US.

Moon separately called Monday for a peaceful solution to the nuclear standoff, saying that "there must not be another war on the Korean Peninsula", according to his office. (., ) His remarks come amid tensions escalated in recent days by belligerent rhetoric exchanged by Pyongyang and Washington.

The North on Monday said any war could "only be turned into a nuclear war". Moon said North Korea must stop issuing menacing statements and provoking.

"The military dimension today is directly in support of that diplomatic and economic effort", he said.

Referring to Kim Jong Un, Trump said: "If he does anything with respect to Guam or any place else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast".

The upcoming military exercises by the US and South Korea occur every year. Pyongyang has claimed that the exercise is a rehearsal for an invasion.

"The government has not considered adjusting the size of the military drill".

"Nobody's looking for war", the four-star general added.

  • Jon Douglas