Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Julian Borger / The Guardian – 2017-04-26 01:38:32
North Korea Conducts Artillery Drills
As US Submarine Arrives
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 25, 2017) — The guided-missile submarine USS Michigan has arrived in South Korea today, and with a carrier strike group still en route, talk of the US attacking North Korea is growing more than ever. North Korea today carried out a live-fire drill of their long-range artillery.
This artillery drill appears to have been intended to underscore North Koreaâ€™s substantial retaliatory capability in the event of a US attack. North Korea has enough artillery to not only cause large casualties to US troops stationed in South Korea, but could wipe out large portions of South Koreaâ€™s capital city in a purely conventional strike.
The fear of a US attack is palpable, and with the Pentagon rushing their THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, there is a sense that they are planning to do something in short order that would need them to be able to shoot down retaliatory missiles.
The problem with that is that while North Korea has a significant missile program, their artillery is much more significant, and the missile defense would not be able to do much about the artillery.
With speculation that the US may attack at the next North Korean nuclear test, China is again trying to calm down the tensions, issuing a warning today not to carry out any such tests, saying it would move relations beyond the â€œpoint of no return.â€
North Korea Conducts Live-fire Drill
With US Submarine Nearby, Raising Tensions
Julian Borger / The Guardian
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2017) — The North Korean army conducted a live-fire drill with massed artillery hours after a US submarine armed with cruise missiles docked at a South Korean base for naval exercises, further raising tensions in a volatile battle of nerves in northeast Asia.
Between 300 and 400 long-range artillery pieces, capable of hitting Seoul, took part in the drill on Tuesday, according to the Yonhap news agency quoting government officials.
The exercise, on the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army, was a clear reminder that North Korea could destroy large swaths of the South Korean capital.
However, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, chose not to use the occasion to conduct the nationâ€™s sixth nuclear test or launch a long-range missile â€“ actions which the Trump administration said would trigger an unspecified US response.
The North Korean salvoes coincided with US and South Korean military exercises on land and sea. The naval drills will include the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and an accompanying flotilla, which is predicted to arrive in the area towards the end of the month after exercises with the Japanese navy, and an Ohio-class submarine, the USS Michigan, which docked at the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday.
The US navy described the arrival of the Michigan, one of the worldâ€™s largest submarines armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, as a routine deployment, but the arrival of such significant firepower coincides with Trump administration attempts to present a tougher stance towards North Korea than its predecessors.
It has declared an end to the Obama administrationâ€™s policy of â€œstrategic patienceâ€ but has not specified what action it would take in response to another nuclear warhead or missile test.
Some of that messaging fell flat when Trump declared that the Carl Vinson â€œarmadaâ€ was on its way to the region when the carrier and its escorts were actually sailing in the other direction, but US officials say it will arrive in the coming week.
The US military also started moving parts of the controversial THAAD anti-missile defense system into a planned deployment site in South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.
Trucks carrying parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system entered the site on a former golf course in the county of Seongju in a southern region of South Korea, early on Wednesday, local time.
America and South Korea agreed last year to have agreed to deploy THAAD in response to the threat of missile launches by North Korea but China says it will do little to deter the North while destabilizing the regional security balance.
Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and non-proliferation said the military deployments were part of a strategy to â€œturn up the heatâ€ on North Korea, and on China, which the US wants to take stronger action to restrain Pyongyang.
â€œIt is not necessarily a bad idea, but the challenge is to avoid the commitment trap,â€ Wolfsthal said. â€œYou can get yourself into a position that doesnâ€™t improve your security. If you donâ€™t follow through, you undermine the faith our allies put in us. The president may be thinking he will have a big splash and people will forget about it, but our allies donâ€™t forget.â€
In a move apparently designed to show congressional backing for his resolve Trump took the extraordinary step of inviting the entire US Senate to the White House on Wednesday to be briefed by senior administration officials about the brewing confrontation with North Korea.
The briefing follows a lunch meeting Trump held with ambassadors from UN member states on the security council on Monday where he emphasised US resolve to stop North Koreaâ€™s progress.
â€œThe status quo in North Korea is unacceptable and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs,â€ Trump said at the meeting. â€œNorth Korea is a big world problem, and itâ€™s a problem we have to finally solve.â€
On Friday the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is due to chair a security council foreign ministersâ€™ meeting on the issue in New York, at which the state department said he would call once more for the full implementation of existing UN sanctions or new measures in the event of further nuclear or missile tests.
â€œThis meeting will give the security council the opportunity to discuss ways to maximise the impact of existing security council measures and to show their resolve to response further provocations with appropriate new measures,â€ said Mark Toner, the state department spokesman.
Senators are to be briefed by the defence secretary, James Mattis, and Tillerson. Such briefings for the entire Senate are not unprecedented but it is very rare for them to take place in the White House, which does not have the large secure facilities for such classified sessions that Congress does.
Officials said the briefing would take place in the auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which can be adapted for such an event.
Senate aides were unsure of the purpose of using the White House as a venue, speculating it could be symbolic and intended to show Trumpâ€™s seriousness or to showcase an assertive president as he approaches 100 days in office.
North Koreaâ€™s state-run newspaper the Rodong Sinmun declared the countryâ€™s armed forces were ready to show their strength by sinking the carrier â€œwith a single strikeâ€.
Meanwhile the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has called for calm in a phone call with Trump. China â€œhopes all parties involved will exercise restraint and avoid doing anything to exacerbate the tense situation on the peninsulaâ€, he said according to a summary of the call released by Chinaâ€™s foreign ministry.
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