North Korea: US is ‘escalating tension’ with military exercises in peninsula

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  • As Southern Mexico reports 8 killed, at least 12 bodies found***

North Korea has warned that the unprecedented deployment of three US aircraft carrier groups around the Korean peninsula is making it impossible to predict when nuclear war will break out.

North Korea’s UN ambassador Ja Song Nam said in a letter to secretary general Antonio Gutteres Monday that the joint US military exercises with South Korea are creating “the worst ever situation prevailing in and around the Korean peninsula”.

Along with the three carrier groups, he said the US has reactivated round-the-clock sorties with nuclear-capable B-52 strategic bombers “which existed during the Cold War times”.

He also said the US is maintaining “a surprise strike posture with frequent flight of B-1B and B-2 formations to the airspace of South Korea.”

“The large-scale nuclear war exercises and blackmails, which the US staged for a whole year without a break in collaboration with its followers to stifle our republic, make one conclude that the option we have taken was the right one and we should go along the way to the last,” Ja said.

He didn’t elaborate on what “the last” might be, but North Korea has launched ballistic missiles that have the potential to strike the US mainland, and it recently conducted its largest-ever underground nuclear explosion. It has also threatened to explode another nuclear bomb above the Pacific Ocean.

The four-day joint naval exercises by the US and South Korea, which began Saturday in waters off the South’s eastern coast, were described by military officials as a clear warning to North Korea. They involve the carrier battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz, which include 11 US Aegis ships that can track missiles, and seven South Korean naval vessels.

Seoul’s military said in a statement that the exercises aim to enhance the combined US and South Korean operational and aerial strike capabilities and to display “strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis”.

According to the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, it is the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three US carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific.

The military drills come amid Donald Trump’s visit to South Korea and Asia, which has been dominated by discussions over the North Korean nuclear threat.

Ja accused the UN security council in Monday’s letter of repeatedly “turning a blind eye to the nuclear war exercises of the United States, who is hell bent on bringing a catastrophic disaster to humanity”. He said the exercises raise serious concern about “the double standard” of the UN’s most powerful body.

He also referenced Trump’s September speech to the UN general assembly in which the president said that if the US is “forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”.

In the meantime,  eight people were killed in Acapulco on a particularly bloody Sunday for Mexico’s violence-plagued Pacific coast resort city, while at least 12 bodies were found in a clandestine grave elsewhere in southern Guerrero state.

“It was a horrible day,” said Roberto Alvarez, security spokesman for Guerrero state, which is home to Acapulco.

The violence began early when police were alerted to the bodies of three young men found with tourniquets around their necks and signs of torture in the San Agustin neighborhood on Acapulco’s northern outskirts.

Later in the morning, a gunbattle broke out between police and armed men on a central avenue, setting off a chase that ended with one suspect killed and three arrested.

Still before noon, two gunmen stormed into a bar and fatally shot a man and a woman who were drinking there. Police patrolling nearby responded and caught the attackers.

The suspects told police the bar contained a clandestine grave, and an excavation by authorities turned up the bodies of four men and one woman. Authorities said they were resuming the search Monday on the belief that more bodies could be hidden on at least two adjacent properties.

On Sunday afternoon, gunmen killed two men two blocks from the same central avenue where the police chase had taken place earlier. Neighbors found the bodies and notified police.

Elsewhere in Guerrero, state authorities reported six burned bodies, six skulls and two sets of bones were found in the municipality of Copanatoyac.

Alvarez, the state security spokesman, said the remains found in the clandestine body-dumping ground might represent between 12 and 14 people.

Officials were also working to confirm reports of killings in the Guerrero cities of Iguala, Taxco and Tlapa.

The state has been among Mexico’s worst hotspots for drug gang violence in recent years. Guerrero recorded 1,726 homicides from January through September, according to federal statistics, up slightly from 1,654 during the same period last year and well more than any other state in the country.

Guardian UK with additional report from Fox

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