US-S. Korean military drills go ahead despite North’s threats  

Children perform a dance at a polling station on Sunday during voting for deputies to the Pyongyang City People’s Assembly. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019

US-S. Korean military drills go ahead despite North’s threats  

  • Joint training exercise may affect denuclearization talks

SEOUL: South Korean and US troops will conduct a scheduled joint training exercise next month but in a low-key manner, a senior presidential security adviser from South Korea has confirmed.
This is despite warnings by North Korea that the exercise may affect the resumption of denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
“The nature of the exercise is not offensive … and is for strengthening the alliance,” said Choi Jong-kun, the secretary for peace planning to President Moon Jae-in, during the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado on Saturday.
Choi told reporters that the exercise would largely involve computer simulations and few troops in the field, an apparent move not to intimidate the North, which has routinely condemned military drills by South Korea and the US.
On July 16, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of readying for war by holding military drills with South Korea, hinting at the possibility of resuming missile and nuclear tests.
“It is crystal clear that it is an actual drill and a rehearsal of war aimed at militarily occupying our Republic by surprise attack and rapid dispatch of large-scale reinforcements,” the ministry said. “With the US unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the US as well.”
The exercise the North has criticized is the “Alliance 19-2” scheduled for Aug. 5 and Aug. 23. Previously, the US-South Korean joint exercise in the latter part of the year was called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), a command post operation centered on computer-simulated war games in response to a scenario of all-out war with the North.
The UFG was announced to end in June last year following a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Earlier this year, the defense authorities agreed to end their springtime large-scale exercise as part of efforts to help facilitate the denuclearization negotiations.
The nuclear disarmament talks, however, have been stalled since the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, Vietnam collapsed over the relief of sanctions against the communist regime. Trump and Kim had a surprise meeting on June 30 at the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization talks.

FASTFACT

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a surprise meeting on June 30 at the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization talks.

American diplomatic and military leaders have rejected the North’s objections to the joint drills.
“I think we’re doing exactly what President Trump promised Chairman Kim we would do with respect to those exercises,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the EWTN Catholic television network, a day after North Korea issued the statement about the exercise.
Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said that North Korea had no reason to protest about military exercises on the Korean Peninsula.
“I can tell you my orders are to execute that exercise in April,” Davidson said during the Aspen forum on Thursday. “And I’ll say this about North Korean rhetoric: They have neither lowered nor raised their own exercise profile from before this negotiation … so they have little to complain about.”
Officials from Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that the Alliance19-2 is to proceed but the term “alliance” would be dropped in a move not to provoke the North. Instead, the exercise would be called a drill aimed at evaluating the South Korean military’s capability to take over wartime command authority from the US military.
“The exercise is aimed at testing and evaluating the initial operational capability of South Korean generals’ operational control of allied forces during wartime,” a Defense Ministry source told Arab News, asking not to be named.
To that end, a South Korean four-star general will oversee the joint exercise for the first time with the chief of US Forces Korea (USFK) serving as deputy commander.
About 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with nuclear-armed North Korea.
Currently, the head of USFK is supposed to take operational control of both US and South Korean troops in the case of war. The USFK commander concurrently serves as chief of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the United Nations Command (UNC).
In October last year, the defense ministers of the two countries agreed to hand over more responsibility to South Korea for its national defense by 2022.
Both sides agreed to keep the CFC in place after the transfer of operational control, but the command will be under the leadership of a South Korean four-star general, with a US commander assuming a supporting role.


Police hunt killer of Omani student stabbed outside London's Harrods

Updated 31 min 53 sec ago

Police hunt killer of Omani student stabbed outside London's Harrods

  • Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi attacked as he walked home
  • Pronounced dead outside the famous department store

LONDON: UK police are hunting for the killer of an Omani student who was stabbed to death outside Harrods department store on Friday in a suspected robbery.

Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi, the youngest son of Omani property developer Sheikh Abdullah Al-Araimi, was attacked as he walked home from spending the evening with a friend, reportedly a Bahraini citizen.

It is believed Al-Araimi, 20, attempted to fight back when attacked before receiving a stab wound to the back and collapsing near an entrance to the department store, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

He was pronounced dead shortly after at the scene on Brompton Road.

The man he was with, also wounded in the incident, has since been released from hospital.

Al-Araimi was a student at King’s College and his relatives, said to be close to Oman’s royal family, were regular visitors to the UK capital.

Detectives investigating the murder said that the motive for the attack was likely robbery, and that Al-Araimi might have been targeted for his Rolex watch.

“Mohammed and his friend were returning home from a restaurant when they were approached and assaulted by two male suspects on Basil Street at the junction of Pavilion Road,” Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge said.

“The victim and his friend were entirely blameless, simply enjoying a meal out together. It does appear that the motive for this cowardly attack was robbery.

“Following the attack, the suspects fled on foot along Basil Street in the direction of Sloane Street.

“I would appeal to anyone who saw two males running along that route, or to drivers who were in Sloane Street around midnight and may have captured any part of this incident on dash-cam footage, to get in contact with my team immediately,” he added.

However, robbery as a motive was dismissed by Al-Araimi’s family in a short statement in which they said his murder being related to the theft of a watch was false.

“The police have confirmed that his possessions were not taken, and he was not wearing a watch at the time of this horrific attack,” the statement read.

The Omani Embassy released a statement, saying: “A regrettable stabbing attack took place, claiming the life of the Omani student, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Araimi. With great sadness and sorrow, the Embassy in London extends its condolences to the family of the deceased.”

The attack also prompted the UAE embassy to warn its citizens on Twitter against “wearing valuable items” given a recent spike in attacks on "citizens of Arab Gulf states.”

Attacks on Arab citizens have increased in London in the past five years, the most high-profile of which saw three Emirati women being bludgeoned to death in an attempted robbery in 2014 at the Cumberland Hotel.