Earlier this week, Seoul asked the US to delay joint military exercises with Japan until after the Winter Olympics, ostensibly to avoid provoking North Korea ahead of the 2018 Winter Games. The timing of the request is suspicious – having coincided with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s announcement that the US has offered to begin talks with the North “without preconditions.” While State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert walked back Tillerson’s statement the next day, insisting the North cease its weapons tests before talks can proceed, it is possible such a delay – if undertaken – could be construed as an opening gambit.
US drills in the region have stopped, though it’s unclear whether the US will abide by South Korea’s request. However, the brief lull in the area was interrupted Thursday when local media reported that China has decided to hold military drills of its own.
According to the South China Morning Post, China is now conducting a live-fire exercise off the North Korean peninsula, and is expected to last for four days. In addition to citing security concerns, Beijing also criticized the US for pushing the region toward nuclear war.
The drill in the Bohai Sea started on Thursday afternoon and will last until 4 pm local time next Monday, according to a notice issued by the Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration.
Beijing cordoned off an area of some 276 square kilometers near Lushun in Liaoning province, an important naval base for the People’s Liberation Army’s North Sea Fleet, which is responsible for defending the Bohai and Yellow Seas off the Korean peninsula.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…