How many annual drills does it take to screw over a Peninsula? You could be forgiven for thinking this a dad-come-geopolitical joke and one with poor range, but has the penny dropped yet? The fact remains that this is no joke. The US-South Korean alliance has engaged in a permanent state of military drills for the last 2 years under the guise of “annual events.”
Yes, each one appears to have a separate name, but the bully’s intention remains the same. The perpetual, never-ending state of American military drills on anyone’s peninsula is sure to send chills along the coldest spine, and is reminiscent of aggression in the Middle East. So, is it any wonder Kim Jong-un is feeling a little under the pump to put his missiles where his mouth is? Is it any wonder that Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned a pale shade of blue through his incessant urgings to the US to back off or risk escalating tensions to the nuclear brink?
It isn’t that I’m defending the actions of Korea, but with every fight there are always two sides to the story. The continual simulated exercises conducted by the US and South Korea have taken up the better part of 2016 and 2017. Take the following as examples if you don’t believe me:
OPLAN formed as a basis for pre-emptive strikes to “decapitate” North Korea.
“In the event of war with North Korea, the US military would also assume overall command of South Korean military forces.”
2016’s Main Events
March 7 -April 30, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 2016: included pre-emptive strikes on North Korean nuclear, missile and military sites as well as “decapitation raids” on the North Korean leadership.
Aug 22 – Sept 2, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise: Said to reaffirm the US commitment to the Armistice, the US-South Korean alliance of 75,000 service personnel, along with nine other nations, including France, Italy and Australia participated, claiming it as “non-provocative.”
2017’s Main Events
March 2 – April 30, Foal Eagle War Games: Involved 300,000 South Korean troops and 17,000 American military personnel. Warships (USS Carl Vinson) and warplanes included. This was an admitted “dress rehearsal” for war against North Korea.
Putin: Please don’t. The rest of the world: Please don’t. The UN: *crickets chirping*.
March 13 – 23, Key Resolve: the simulated exercises conducted between March 13 to 23, were largely computer simulated. However, the intention was to practice and iron out solutions. This formed a separate part to Foal Eagle.
August 21 – 31, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian war games: The land, sea and air war games started on this year’s solar eclipse. Involving tens of thousands of US and South Korean troops, both China and Russia asked for a cease in these provocations until talks prevailed.
Mid-September, multiple drills: Conducted again by the US, South Korea but also China and Russia, these followed the missile guided over Japan. Though not ‘annual’ in style, it is important how prior US-South Korean drills escalated an already delicate situation, and that North Korea made several warnings to heed drills or risk mounting aggression and war.
South Korea further declared in September that these drills would now occur “two to three times a month.”
December 4, Vigilant Ace: is currently in progress this week, involving F-35 fighters and 230 other aircraft. The annual joint US-South Korean drill was designed in preparation for “an open, all-out provocation” that “may lead to a nuclear war at any moment.” It will also be backed by 12,000 US service members for the yearly event.
It is hardly annual when military drills take up a quarter of the year. You cannot call each drill annual by giving them separate names in hopes that the public are incapable of putting two and two together.
Both sides are equally to blame. The sanctions are a bluff; the US knowing they were never going to work on an isolated and rogue state. This is the we-did-what-we-could excuse before the final red button is pushed. The we-tried-everything excuse. But the US and South Korea have largely ignored the one plea that could create an environment for diplomatic talks: ceasing the perpetual military drills they have the nerve to call annual.
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