Korea tensions rise ahead of US-South Korea joint military drill

Planned South Korean and US drills between will 'precipitate their self-destruction', North Korea says

White House national security adviser HR McMaster said Saturday that North Korea represents "the greatest immediate threat to the United States" and that the potential for war with the communist nation is growing each day.

"What is clear is every time - every time - he conducts a missile launch, a nuclear test, he gets better", McMaster said.

The air forces of South Korea and the United States are ready for another joint exercise, set to start on Monday. On Wednesday, 29 November, the North fired the long-range missile which flew about 950kms and touched an altitude of 4,475kms during the almost hour-long flight before hitting the sea waters off the Japan coast.

Named Vigilant Ace, the air manoeuvres will simulate strikes on "mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets and transporter erector launchers that move the North's missiles", the South Korean Air Force was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying on Sunday.

This deployment, as well as the three U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers deployed last month near the North Korean waters, falls under the agreement in October between Seoul and Washington to increase rotational deployment of strategic assets of the USA in the Korean peninsula.

"I think it's increasing every day", McMaster told Fox News' Bret Baier at the Reagan National Security Forum in California.

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United Nations Security Council ministers will meet on December 15 to discuss North Korea's nuclear and missiles programs and the body will also meet separately this month to discuss human rights abuses in the North Asian country, an annual meeting that its ally China has tried to prevent for the past three years.

About 28,500 USA troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.

"We are in a race to be able to solve this problem", Mr McMaster said.

Bessho emphasised the importance of linking the human rights concerns to the security threats that are impacting the people there, as well as the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

"North Korea is continuing to pursue its ICBM in a methodical and pragmatic manner, making progress in incremental steps", said Joseph Bermudez from 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project. "We're asking China to act in China's interest, as they should, and we believe increasingly that it's in China's urgent interest to do more".

Western analysts said it is more likely the truck was one of about half a dozen vehicles obtained years ago from China, which North Korea has modified since then.

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