Each year, the United States teams up with South Korea to conduct a massive military training exercise called “Foal Eagle.” 2017 operations began on March 1st.
The exercise is defensive in nature, but has been a source of friction with North Korea. This Tuesday, North Korea warned of “merciless” attacks if Foal Eagle operations infringe on North Korea’s “sovereignty or dignity.”
The threat came after a squad of F-18 fighter jets took off from the deck of the USS Vinson, a nuclear-powered carrier currently stationed in the East Sea.
Rear Admiral James W. Kilby, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 1, assured reporters that the launch was a “routine deployment for the Carl Vinson strike group.” Pyongyang views the launch as an invasion rehearsal.
Last week, North Korea responded to Foal Eagle operations by firing four ballistic missiles eastwards into the sea.
“If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignify even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea, and underwater,” said North Korean state news agency KCNA.
North Korea has alarmed its enemies and neighbors in recent years with its ongoing nuclear tests and missile launches.
The need to deal with the rogue nation increased last month after Kim Jong Un’s half-brother was murdered in Malaysia.
As the Trump Administration reevaluates its North Korea strategy, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has stated that “all options are on the table.” US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to make his first visit to South Korea this Friday.
Adding to the tension is China’s vehement opposition to the deployment of an advanced US anti-missile system in South Korea. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system is designed to protect South Korea from its northern counterpart, but China worries that the system’s powerful radar could compromise its security.
The US military began installing the system a week ago.
China has asked the US and South Korea to stop military drills in the area and for North Korea to stop its weapons tests.
“We hope the relevant side can respect the security concerns of countries in the region, can take a responsible attitude and do more to benefit the easing of tension, rather than irritating each other,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Editor’s note: It has always been tough to take North Korea serious from a military standpoint. But new missile test are proving to be a threat to more than just North Korea’s neighbors, and Kim Jung Un is determined to be noticed. He may get his wish.