The U.S. is preparing to send strategic military assets to South Korea for drills as tensions run high on the peninsula following North Korea’s test of a new offensive weapon.
“The two sides have agreed to send U.S. strategic assets, such as the F-22 stealth fighters and a nuclear-powered submarine, to the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises in March,” a military official told Yonhap News Agency. The U.S. may also send B-1B strategic bombers and the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to the region, according to some observers.
“We are in talks with the U.S. to determine the size of U.S. strategic assets to be deployed and the range of their exposure to local media,” the Ministry of National Defense reported.
The exercise will be the largest ever and is designed to showcase the strength of the alliance in the face of North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the defense ministry added.
North Korea tested a new type of ballistic missile Sunday. The missile — the Pukguksong-2 — is a modified, land-based version of the Pukguksong-1, a submarine-launched ballistic missile the North tested in August last year. Like its sea-based predecessor, the new ballistic missile is a solid-fueled weapon, which means less preparation time before launch. The missile is also road-mobile, making it less vulnerable to preemptive strikes.
Capable of carrying a nuclear payload, the new weapon is mobile and survivable, making it much more threatening.
Sunday’s launch was the first North Korean provocation of the new U.S. administration. President Donald Trump said that the U.S. will stand by its allies, later adding that, “North Korea is a big, big problem we will deal with very strongly.” At this time, it is still unclear how he plans to ultimately curb North Korean aggression.
In a DPRK Today commentary, the North vowed to take “an extremely stern countermeasure” against the U.S. and South Korea, a standard reaction to joint drills, which it perceives as preparation for an invasion.
“The puppets in the South cannot hide their ambitions of conducting the exercise for a preemptive strike against our nuclear and missile bases, manifesting the will of the U.S. and its followers to stage an all-out war against us,” the newspaper argued, claiming that the North is armed with the strongest nuclear weapons and state-of-the-art weapons systems and will, if necessary, fire on the “stronghold of aggression” if the U.S. or South Korea show even the slightest sign of provocation.
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