The U.S. and South Korea kicked off joint military exercises Sunday, but North Korea is keeping unusually quiet about the war games.
The annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills, spring military exercises perceived by Pyongyang as a rehearsal for invasion, were delayed this year because of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, where the world witnessed unprecedented diplomatic engagement between the North and the South.
In January and February, North Korea warned against holding the drills, asserting that such exercises constituted an “act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean peninsula.” The North, however, has yet to issue any official condemnation of the war games now that the military exercises have begun.
There are a few hundred thousand soldiers (mostly South Koreans) training for war on the southern side of the Korean Peninsula, and Pyongyang has not said a word about it. The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp is parked just off Korea with a boatload of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, yet the North is not spewing its usual fiery rhetoric.
The drills have reportedly been scaled down some this year, but there is still a significant allied military presence on the Korean Peninsula for joint military exercises, even without American supercarriers and nuclear-powered submarines.
In response to last year’s drills, North Korea not only hurled violent threats at the U.S. and its South Korean allies, but it also fired off four extended-range Scuds into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. The rogue regime later announced that it was practicing striking American bases in Japan. Open source analysis of maps in North Korea’s propaganda indicated that the intended target was Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, home to a dozen hard-hitting F-35s.
During a recent meeting with South Korean diplomats in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that “he understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.” If that is indeed the case, it could explain North Korea’s lack of a response to the joint drills.
There is still plenty of time for North Korea express dissatisfaction with the U.S.-South Korean joint training exercises as the war games last over a month. Seeing that Kim is expected to soon meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as President Donald Trump, the young despot may actually keep calm while the drills are underway.
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