USA carrier joins South Korea drills, North Korea warns of 'merciless' strikes

Tensions across Asia present challenges to secretary of State's first visit

While the drones were originally slated to be deployed to South Korea only in crisis situations, it now appears that the USA has chose to have them at the ready, amid North Korea's escalating threats.

The communist regime fired four extended range Scud rockets into the Sea of Japan. The launch unnerved Asian nations, which now are scrambling for a plan on how best to confront the threat posed by the communist country.

That topic will be at the forefront this week as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes his first trip in office to Asia, a six-day sweep through Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. But Beijing is concerned that THAAD will breach its fences, prompting official protests and boycotts of South Korean products. The tests have led most experts to believe that North Korea has significantly expanded its nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities, and that by 2020 it may be able to affix miniaturized nuclear warheads onto long-range missiles capable of reaching the continental US.

"If the goal is making us give up our nuclear program, North Korea is not interested in any kind of dialogue", Ambassador Kim In-ryong, North Korea's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said.

Visiting the headquarters of an army unit early this month, Kim praised his troops for their "vigilance against the United States and South Korean enemy forces that are making frantic efforts for invasion", according to the North's official KCNA news agency. The upcoming South Korean elections are expected to hand over the Blue House in Seoul to the liberal Moon Jae In, who is wary of Thaad and an advocate of avoiding the spectre of South Korea becoming a victim to intensified US-China military competition.

"We're trying to come up with what the approach of the new administration is going to be", the official said.

North Korea's missile tests on March 6 and its march toward nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles has raised anxieties in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. Since previous year, Pyongyang has also tested solid-fueled missile systems.

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Amid speculation that the possible shift to a liberal government in South Korea may soften the country's posture on the North, four former USA ambassadors to South Korea told VOA the relations between the two allies likely will remain on compatible footing, no matter who wins the upcoming election.

Stop No. 2 - South Korea: You'd think the only thing to talk about in Seoul these days would be naughty North Korea and its nefarious nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The United States will permanently station attack drones in South Korea, the U.S. military announced. China opposes the Thaad deployment because it is anxious the system's powerful radar could penetrate its territory. Indeed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is already pushing ahead with THAAD deployment in Japan. Moon has said he supports the alliance with the USA, but also believes Seoul should not agree to every American demand.

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Mary Beth Long, an assistant secretary of defence in the Bush administration, said the United States should consider carrying out air strikes to stop missile tests. Especially those who pay RM150 annually, RM288 biennially or RM388 triennially to keep Malaysiakini independent from government influence and corporate interests. In response, North Korean state media went so far as to criticize China implicitly for "dancing to the tune of the USA".

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"China wants the denuclearisation of the north but its priorities continue to be different from ours", Sue Mi Terry, a former deputy national intelligence officer for east Asia in the US National Intelligence Council, told a Council on Foreign Relations event.

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