The United States and Japan are conducting a large-scale joint military drill to counter North Korea’s hypothetical missile attacks. In contrast, an announcement on the schedules for the South Korea – U.S. joint military drills (Key Resolve and Foal Eagle) has been repeatedly postponed.
The United States and Japan are conducting an annual general air and missile defense drill from Friday last week through Friday. The military drill is designed for the two countries’ militaries to master the process to monitor, trace and destroy enemy missiles by linking the network of their missile defense capabilities through a computer simulation. The key element of the drill is to check readiness to intercept North Korea’s missiles in the event of an attack. Missile defense capabilities of the United States and Japan are being mobilized en masse including eight aegis destroyers (six from the U.S. and two from Japan), and Patriot (PAC-3) interceptor missiles. The drill was conducted by the navies of the two countries until last year, but the scale of the drill has increased this year, with forces of Japan’s Self-defense Air Force and U.S. Air Force and Marines also taking part. “The drill exemplifies the fact that the United States and Japan are taking seriously the North’s nuclear and missile threats, irrespective of the thawing mood in inter-Korean relations in the wake of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics,” a source in the South Korean military said.
In contrast, announcement of schedules for South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, which were postponed until after the Olympics, are being put off repeatedly. When asked related questions, the South Korean Defense Ministry has repeatedly said it will announce the schedule at proper timing.
Some watchers say that even though the military authorities of South Korea and the United States effectively agreed to conduct the drills for two months from April 1, (South Korea) is postponing the schedules for fears over North Korea’s opposition. Others raise the possibility that Pyongyang will make a ‘drastic offer’ such as reunions of separated families and acceptance of the demand for Pyongyang-Washington dialogue for the North’s denuclearization at a time coinciding with the joint drills soon after the Olympics. At the pretext of such an event, Pyongyang could demand another delay or suspension of the joint drills, or label the drills an obstacle to reconciliation between the two Koreas.
The Dong-A Ilbo