NKorea warns US, SKorea, Japan of merciless strikes

US Army's new MQ-1C Warrior UAV

Several officials familiar with Rex Tillerson's agenda during his first mission to Asia as secretary of state said he'd urge the world power to better help contain the North Korean threat through financial implications.

Seoul and Washington said the joint drills are purely defensive.

Complicating his mission to Beijing are China's strenuous objections to the initial deployment to South Korea of a US missile defense system that have strained relations between Seoul and Beijing and sparked a snowballing economic boycott against South Korea among some Chinese.

North Korea has sparked worldwide fury by launching four missiles into the Sea of Japan, not long after the alleged assassination of Kim's brother Kim Jong-nam.

The United States and South Korea say the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system is for defense against North Korea, but China fears its powerful radar can probe deep into its territory and compromise its security.

The murder in Malaysia last month of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother has added to a sense of urgency to efforts to handle North Korea.

The hurried push for THAAD was aimed to make it more hard to "walk it back", said Park Seok-min, co-head of an association of advocacy groups to prevent the USA missile defense system from being installed in their soil.

Meanwhile, Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters last month the USA was considering "all options" following a special session called to address North Korean missile tests.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi implied that the United States and North Korea were equally at fault for provoking the latest crisis and headed towards a "head-on collision". Key Resolve, which overlaps with the Foal Eagle drills, involves 290-thousand South Korean and ten-thousand USA troops.

The most recent missile test on Feb 12 - the first since US President Donald Trump took office - showed some signs of progress in its missile capabilities, according to the South Korean military. The numbers will reportedly be similar this year.

The United States has also started to deploy "Gray Eagle" attack drones to South Korea, a US military spokesman said on Monday. China says, however, its leverage over Pyongyang is limited.

Thae Yong-ho, who recently compared Kim to the Roman emperor Nero, said North Korea is headed down a unsafe path as it seeks recognition as a nuclear weapons state like "India or Pakistan", Voice of America reported Tuesday. During a meeting with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi in the White House on February 27, Trump reportedly put considerable pressure on China by suggesting that unless China took active steps to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, Japan would have no choice but to acquire nuclear weapons.

"The U.S. and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China's mediation", it said, referring to complaints that China does not do enough to rein in old ally North Korea.

The comments are at variance with a tough stand taken by the new USA administration on North Korea.

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