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Moon says even slight conflict on Korean Peninsula may threaten many lives

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US, South Korea start annual military drill amid North Korea tension

The US defense secretary, James Mattis, said on Sunday the reduced troop numbers were "by design to achieve the exercise objectives", denying suggestions Washington had sent fewer soldiers to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Harry Harris and Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command John Hyten are both in South Korea, the first time such high-level military leaders are on the peninsula during the exercises.

The ongoing UFG simulation exercise is the first South Korea-U.S. war game since two mobile launchers and other THAAD elements were transported in April to a former golf course in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province.

"Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system", Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

North Korea's envoy to U.N. disarmament talks says "military threats and pressure" from the United States are only serving to drive his country to further develop a nuclear deterrence.

The tense rhetoric has died down somewhat since last Tuesday, when North Korea's state-run news outlet KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would opt to wait and see what the "foolish Yankees" do next after being briefed by his military advisers on plan to fire missiles off the coast of Guam.

"No one can vouch that these huge forces concentrated in South Korea will not go over to an actual war action now that the military tensions have reached an extreme pitch in the Korean Peninsula", the statement said.

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Tensions have increased as North Korea advanced toward being able to hit the mainland United States with a nuclear-armed missile. The North Korean leader was last seen attending the "successful" test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 31.

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"The U.S. will be wholly held accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by such reckless aggressive war maneuvers, as it chose a military confrontation with the DPRK", the statement read. "Such huddle is increasing the gravity of the situation".

"North Korea must understand its repeated provocations are what is forcing South Korea and the USA to conduct the joint defensive drills, which in turn keeps the vicious cycle going", the president told a cabinet meeting.

"We call on all countries to redouble their efforts, including through implementation of agreed UN Security Council resolutions, to bring North Korea to its senses and end its reckless and unsafe threats to the peace of our region and the world".

"North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes pose grave threats to the entire world", Wood told the Geneva forum.

This year's exercise involves 17,500 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the USA military command in South Korea and Seoul's Defence Ministry.

No field training is involved in the drills, in which alliance officers sit at computers to practice how they engage in battles and hone decision-making capabilities. The allies have said the drills are defensive in nature.

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