North Korea visited by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu
Major joint US-South Korean military drills launched today send an “unequivocal message” to Beijing and Pyongyang as fears of a serious escalation in the region mount, Daily Express US has heard.
The US and South Korean militaries have kicked off major joint annual drills that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un allegedly deems as an invasion rehearsal.
The hermit kingdom has already responded by launching a series of tests with strategic cruise missiles to deliberately coincide with the drills as war fears surge. Meanwhile, China has been persisting with its repeated threats to invade Taiwan, another source of potential conflict in the region.
According to Matt Shoemaker, a former naval and intelligence Officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the joint drills are Washington’s attempt to discourage any sort of military escalation from both adversaries.
He told Daily Express US: “US military drills with South Korea have been held almost every year for decades.
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“The drills accomplish a number of foreign policy and military goals simultaneously with one fell swoop. From training soldiers how to work with their South Korean counterparts, giving them first-hand experience how to storm beaches, to sending unequivocal messages to North Korea and China that the US knows how to accomplish its military goals – so don’t try anything dumb.”
The drills come three days after the US, South Korea and Japan held their first stand-alone trilateral summit.
The nations agreed to boost their cooperation on ballistic missile defences to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.
North Korea currently holds a huge stockpile of ballistic missiles, but the test-launching of deadly weapons is strictly prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions.
However, cruise missile tests aren’t banned. But they do reportedly still pose a threat because they fly at a lower altitude to avoid radar detection.
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North Korea is also planning to use cruise missiles to strike incoming US warships and aircraft carriers in the event of a conflict, analysts have previously said.
Shoemaker likened the coinciding cruise missile tests to the film “Groundhog Day”, suggesting Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests are merely symbolic reactions to the US as it flexes its military muscle.
He said: “In many ways, these exercises are reminiscent of the film ‘Groundhog Day’ where the US and South Korea conduct exercises, North Korea fires a few missiles in response, both sides trade strongly worded letters, and honour is satisfied.”
North Korea has conducted more than 100 weapons tests since 2022, some involving nuclear-capable missiles designed to strike the US mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan.
The US and South Korea have expanded their regular training exercises in response.
The joint annual military exercise – Ulchi Freedom Shield – will last for 11 days.
It also comes amid surging geopolitical tensions with China, which Shoemaker said also provide a chilling “backdrop” to this year’s event.
Beijing has repeatedly threatened to invade the independently governed island nation in the Taiwan Strait, and the US has vowed to help defend the island from a military incursion.
Shoemaker said: “The backdrop this year, however, is an antagonistic Beijing whose economy is faltering and its population is now in long-term decline.
“The message from Washington is a warning to Chairman Xi Jinping not to make a move on Taiwan. Lessons learned in American exercises with South Korea can easily be transferred to liberating an invaded Taiwan.”
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