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US-Korean live-fire exercise ramps up tensions

Large-scale military exercises have been held in both North and South Korea over the last five days.
In the South, US and South Korean forces obliterated targets painted on a hillside with fighter jets, tanks, and attack helicopters.
In the North, hundreds of long-range artillery pieces lined up along a beach, pummelling the sea beyond.
The pictures were released on the same day, but the exercises actually took place several days apart - on Friday, 21 April, in South Korea and on Tuesday, 25 April, in North Korea.
Washington and Seoul say their drills are defensive in nature, the culmination of annual join exercises on the peninsula, with no particular enemy in mind.
Pyongyang is not convinced, generally referring to them as a rehearsal for invasion, and regarding them as a provocative act.

Read Also: US moves missile defence to South Korea site amid tensions with North

Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Un has been photographed overseeing his own military manoeuvres, to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army.
It was said to be the country's largest ever live-firing drill, involving 300 to 400 large calibre artillery pieces, capable of hitting the South Korean capital, Seoul.
The accompanying text described submarines submerging rapidly in the distance to simulate torpedo attacks on enemy ships, while bombers fly overhead.
Kim Jong Un is surrounded by photographers at a military parade
The images are difficult to verify, North Korea does have some form for enhancing such photographs after the event.
But regardless, the message was clear - this was intended as a show of force, to answer what they see as a show of force from the other side.

Read Also: North Korea conducts live-fire drill with US submarine nearby, raising tensions

In recent days, North Korea has threatened to sink the approaching US carrier strike group , led by the USS Carl Vinson, which is finally expected to arrive in the waters off the peninsula by the end of the month, and to "cut the windpipe of US imperialists" with an almighty sword.
All of which is taking place against the backdrop of President Donald Trump summoning the entire Senate to the White House for a briefing on North Korea , and the arrival of the USS Michigan - a nuclear-powered submarine equipped with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles - in Busan, South Korea, on what is described as a "routine visit".
Kim Jong Un is surrounded by photographers at a military parade
This all looks, and sounds, very dramatic, but a couple of quick points to bear in mind.
First, North Korea's very formidable-looking live-firing exercise is not the worst thing that could have happened yesterday.
There was speculation that the regime would use the anniversary to test a longer range missile, or carry out another nuclear test - either of which the Trump administration has signalled would carry a more significant response.
This didn't happen.
Second, and perhaps most importantly - this all makes for spectacular pictures, but if this situation could be solved by impressive shows of force, it would have been by now.
Both sides know that actually using any of this weaponry would have catastrophic consequences.

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