N. Korea resumes threats ahead of exercises

FILE- In this Aug. 24, 2016, file photo, South Korean army soldiers conduct an anti-terror drill as part of Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. America’s annual joint military exercises with South Korea always frustrate North Korea. The war games set to begin Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 may hold more potential to provoke than ever, given President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threats and Pyongyang’s as-yet-unpursued plan to launch missiles close to Guam. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

Nuclear tensions are high again between North Korea and the United States – days after a very welcome cooling-off – with a renewed roar of flame calling President Trump by name when the United States and South Korea launch joint military maneuvers today.

“The Trump group’s statement of reckless nuclear war exercises … is reckless behavior leading the situation in the uncontrollable stage of a nuclear war,” Rodong report Sinmun read, according to CNN. The North Korean government newspaper also promised that the pariah state could at any time attack the United States with a “ruthless strike.”

The warning, published in an official newspaper of the North Korean government, came just hours before the United States. And South Korea were scheduled today to launch the so-called “Ulchi Freedom Guardian” military exercises, a 10-day annual military drill on the Korean peninsula.

“No one can guarantee that exercise will not turn into a real fight,” North Korea said in the editorial, according to a South Korean news agency.

The messages came after Pyongyang said last week it had finalized plans to fire four missiles into Guam’s US territory, although US dictator Kim Jong Un finally decided to stop “to further observe the absurd and stupid behavior of the Yankees , “- a statement considered to back up the threat, possibly under pressure from China.

The new rhetoric means that the chances of some kind of “provocation” from North Korea – like another missile test or perhaps a cyberattack – are “pretty high,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korean studies professor at the Fletcher School in The University of Tufts. Shortly after last year’s exercises, for example, North Korea conducted its second nuclear missile test in nine months.

“North Korea is very good in the smoke screen. They seem crazy but they are not crazy, they are not irrational,” Lee said. “They are very good at sending mixed signals before launching a major attack.”

That possibility has led to some calls to the US. To reduce military exercises. US Senator Edward J. Markey, who is currently leading a congressional delegation in Korea, China and Japan, said the United States should consider modifying the drills if North Korea agrees to freeze its weapons programs.