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5 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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US, South Korea launch air drills

NATO chief hails Tillerson role on N Korea
AFP

SEOUL: The US and South Korea on yesterday kicked off their largest ever joint air exercise, an operation North Korea has labelled an "all-out provocation", days after Pyongyang fired its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, reports AFP

The five-day Vigilant Ace drill -- involving 230 aircraft, including F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters, and tens of thousands of troops -- began yesterday morning, Seoul's air force said.

Pyongyang over the weekend blasted the drill, accusing US President Donald's Trump's administration of "begging for nuclear war". The annual exercise comes five days after the nuclear-armed North test-fired a new ICBM, which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

As tensions surged, US Senator Lindsey Graham, an influential Republican and foreign policy hawk, warned that the US was moving closer to "preemptive war" with the North.

"If there's an underground nuclear test (by the North), then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States," Graham told the CBS show "Face the Nation".

Meanwhile, The head of NATO on Monday praised embattled US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his "key role" in the North Korea crisis as rumours swirl that his position is under threat.

Jens Stoltenberg insisted that a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels this week would not be distracted by doubts over Tillerson's future.

Anonymous White House leaks have suggested Tillerson could be out of a job within weeks and even while denying this on Friday, President Donald Trump reminded him: "I call the final shots."

Stoltenberg gave his backing to Tillerson's efforts in tackling the crisis surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"Secretary Tillerson has played a key role, both in sending the message of deterrence, the unity and the resolve of the whole alliance, but also when it comes to the need for continuing to work for a peaceful solution," Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

Trump has publicly criticised his top diplomat on the issue, saying Tillerson was "wasting his time" pursuing contacts with North Korea. The isolated and impoverished North has staged six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 -- most recently in September.

In recent years Pyongyang has accelerated its drive to bring together nuclear and missile technology capable of threatening the US, which it accuses of hostility. "The preemption is becoming more likely as their technology matures. Every missile test, every underground test of a nuclear weapon, means the marriage is more likely," Graham said.

His remarks echoed those of Trump's National Security Adviser HR McMaster, who told a security forum on Saturday that the potential for war with the North "is increasing every day".

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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