“Military Exercises Update”: Australia Provokes China; US Provokes North Korea

August 23rd, 2023 - by Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com

Australia and the Philippines hold their first joint amphibious exercises.

Australia’s Biggest Warship Drills With
The Philippines in the South China Sea
Dave DeCamp / AntiWar.com

(August 21, 2023) — On Monday, Australia’s biggest warship participated in drills with the Philippines and the US in the disputed South China Sea as part of Canberra and Manila’s first-ever bilateral amphibious exercises.

The drills, dubbed “Exercise Alon,” kicked off on August 14 and will be held until August 31 as part of Australia’s annual Indo-Pacific Endeavour, which involves Australia’s armed forces visiting other countries in the region. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles is traveling to the Philippines to observe some of the exercises.

Exercise Alon involves more than 2,500 personnel, including about 1,200 from Australia, 1,200 from the Philippines, and 150 US Marines stationed in Darwin, Australia. The US has been encouraging its allies in the region to increase joint military cooperation as part of its strategy against China.

HMAS Canberra, Australia’s largest warship, was one of several vessels that took part in the exercises in the South China Sea on Monday off the coast of the western Philippine province of Palawan.

According to AFP, the ships were involved in air assault drills about 125 miles from the Spratly Islands, where Second Thomas Shoal is located, a reef that’s been the source of recent tensions between China and the Philippines.

Chinese Coast Guard vessels recently blocked Philippine boats from resupplying a ship that Manila grounded on Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to assert its claim to the reef. After the incident, the US reaffirmed that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, demonstrating how the region has turned into a potential flashpoint for a major conflict.

The US and Australia are also planning to hold drills with Japan in the South China Sea this week, which will involve the deployment of one of Japan’s largest warships, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo. The US is expected to deploy the USS America, a US Navy amphibious assault ship.

Kim Jong Un Oversees Cruise Missile Test as
Washington and Seoul Launch Joint War Games
Connor Freeman / Libertarian Institute

(August 21, 2023) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a cruise missile test while aboard a naval ship on Monday. Concurrently, the US and South Korea began yet another series of military exercises which Pyongyang views as rehearsals for war and regime change.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state run media outlet, Kim visited a Navy flotilla on the east coast to observe the missile launch and watched as sailors on a patrol ship staged the “strategic” test. Kim was pictured, flanked by officers, standing on the deck of a vessel and watching the missile as it was fired.

This test was intended to confirm the “combat function of the ship and the feature of its missile system,” as well as enhance the ability of the seamen to successfully launch an “attack mission in actual war,” KCNA reported just hours before Washington and Seoul commenced their war game.

The annual Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises — eyeing Pyongyang — involves tens of thousands of troops from both countries and will run until August 31. United States Forces Korea issued a statement which says several other countries “are scheduled to participate in different capacities” including Australia, the UK, France, Canada, and the Philippines. The South Korean military boasted that this year’s iteration will be held on the “largest scale ever.”

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the drills would simulate various contingency scenarios such as cyber, terror, and drone attacks. Yoon warned, during a meeting of the National Security Council, “true peace is preserved only by overwhelming force.”

On Friday, the North Korean military stated that it scrambled warplanes in response to a “dangerous military provocation” by a US spy plane in Pyongyang’s exclusive economic zone, this includes the area within 200 nautical miles of its territory.

“[The military] promptly gave an order… to make an emergency sortie toward the air space intruded by the US strategic reconnaissance plane and carry on an alert guard duty,” the statement reads. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) recently admonished Washington that if such provocations persist, US spy planes may be shot down.

Under the Joe Biden administration, massive joint US-South Korean live fire war games have resumed and since 2022, in response, the DPRK has launched more than 100 missiles.

In March, Washington and Seoul held their largest live-fire field exercises in five years, the drills were dubbed “Foal Eagle.” As part of the giant joint military exercises this year, Washington and Seoul carried out the largest war drills in the history of their seven-decade alliance. Some of these drills have even taken place near the border with the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

Tensions have been soaring on the Korean peninsula largely as a result of these war games which have seen the White House deploy nuclear capable bombers, aircraft carriers, and armed Reaper drones. Last month, a US nuclear-armed submarine docked in South Korea for the first time since 1981.

Last week, Biden, Yoon, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met at Camp David. The White House declared the three sides agreed to a “multi-year trilateral exercise plan,” entailing a “multi-year trilateral framework that includes annual, named, multi-domain trilateral exercises, which will constitute an unprecedented level of trilateral defense cooperation.” The burgeoning alliance is ancillary to Washington’s buildup in the Asia-Pacific for a coming war with China.

Although, the US intelligence community assesses Kim will only use his nation’s nuclear-armed status as a means for political and diplomatic ends — not for offensive military purposes — the increased war drills will surely inflame tensions with Pyongyang.

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on Conflicts of Interest. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Antiwar.com and Counterpunch, as well as the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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