As F-18 fighter jets took off from the U.S.S. Carl Vinson in the seas off South Korea Tuesday, part of a joint military exercise staged by Seoul and Washington, D.C., North Korea issued a warning filled with its trademark bluster.
“If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater,” said KCNA, Pyongyang’s state news agency. It went on to describe the exercise as simulating “dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets.”
North Korea has been particularly sensitive this year to the military exercises, which have been going on for 40 years and have been described by the Defense Department as “defensive in nature.” That’s not how they’re viewed in Pyongyang, where the exercises are seen as a preparation for war, and last Monday North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the East Sea to make its displeasure known.
In response to that launch, the U.S., Japan, and South Korea are testing missile defense ships in the East Sea this week in what the U.S. Navy has called “a trilateral missile warning informational link exercise.”
Meanwhile, China is trying to play peacemaker. “North Korea has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions banning its ballistic missile launches; on the other hand, South Korea, the U.S. — and now Japan — insist on conducting super-large-scale military drills,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday.
For Beijing, this is not just about keeping the peace. The Chinese government fears the missile-defense system’s “powerful radar can probe deep into its territory and compromise its security,” Reuters reports.
As if that weren’t enough drama, the U.S. beat its chest again Monday with the announcement that Gray Eagle attack drones have been deployed to South Korea. In a press release, the military said the drones add “significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” abilities to forces in Korea. More importantly, they’re one more reason for Kim Jong-un to think twice before his trigger finger gets itchy.