The United States and South Korea have begun military exercises involving thousands of personnel. North Korea’s new leader, who is also Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army issued an alert and has called for his country’s troops to retaliate if necessary, should their territory integrity of their country’s boundaries are infringed in any way during the so called “war games”.
According to the Pentagon, the command post drill, named “Key Resolve”, features thousands of personnel.
U.S. and South Korean military officials are stressing it has no connection to current events on the Korean peninsula, but the timing is questionable. North Korean’s mistrust the motives and suspect this may be a rouse to stage a pre-emptive military strike against the nation.
A spokesman at South Korea’s Defense Ministry, Kim Min-suk, calls the exercise “routine”, explaining it will be similar in scope and size to last year’s drill. Last year’s naval war exercises almost caused a war to break out.
In that incident November 23, 2010: North Korea fired artillery at South Korea’s Big Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea and South Korea returned fire. Two South Korean marines and two South Korean civilians were killed, six were seriously wounded, and ten were treated for minor injuries. Approximately seventy South Korean houses were destroyed. North Korean casualties were unknown, but Lee Hong-gi, the Director of Operations of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), claimed that as a result of the South Korean retaliation “there may be a considerable number of North Korean casualties”.
Kim says the drill will go on as planned, despite the serious concerns related to it made by North Korea.
Pyongyang is characterizing the exercise as a rehearsal for an invasion by “war mongers” carrying nuclear war equipment.
It has also expressed outrage about the timing, calling “Key Resolve” an serious infringement of its sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK coming at a time North Koreans are in a period of mourning for their recently deceased leader.
Official state media in Pyongyang says supreme commander Kim Jong Un has personally ordered a frontier unit to be prepared for battle. Unconfirmed reports means the stockpiling of ammunition, including live rounds.
“This is serious, because the exercise could be seen as an attack”, says Dean Miller, a former front line infantryman who served in South Korea along the Demilitarize Zone. “The leader has already OK a military response if provoked. This is a bad idea on the part of the US military, which is playing with fire”, he said.
The announcer, on the Sunday evening main television newscast, saying General Kim has told front-line soldiers if the “enemy intrudes even 0.0001 millimeters into the waters” of North Korea they should make a powerful retaliatory strike.
There are indications pointing to some military units , including trucks and supplies moving toward the border in the North.
Since the death in December of Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s has grown more concerned over a possible pre-emptive US military strike, especially as it transfers top authority and titles…
Analysts note similar threats from Pyongyang have been common over the years but are rarely acted out. But that doesn’t square with recent action by the North. The incident in November, 2010, is a perfect example. In that case North Korea shelled an inhabited island in the Yellow Sea during a South Korean artillery drill, killing four people, should be a wake up call that the North Koreans should not be messed with.
In related news, another U.S.-South Korean exercise, named “Foal Eagle,” is to begin Thursday and will continue through the end of April.
It involves over 11,000 U.S. military personnel in addition to South Korean army divisions and smaller specialized units.