North Korea accused the United States of pushing the Korean peninsula to “the brink of nuclear war,” after a pair of strategic bombers flew training drills with South Korean and Japanese air forces along the North Korean border on Monday.
According to South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun, the joint drill conducted was intended to “deter provocations” made by the North Korean government. Kim Jong Un’s regime has repeatedly threatened preemptive nuclear strikes on targets in South Korea and Japan in recent months as they continue to hone their ability to launch nuclear capable ballistic missiles.
Despite the B-1B Lancer Bombers taking to the sky over the Korean peninsula, President Donald Trump provided a decidedly softer approach to North Korean relations this week, saying he’d be “honored” to meet with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un under the right circumstances.
China’s posture regarding the North Korean nuclear threat has also shifted, as they continue to buck against the idea of cooperating with the United States, but nonetheless push publicly for the denuclearization of Kim’s regime. Despite seeing eye to eye on that specific subject, how to go about bringing about such a conclusion to the current situation remains the subject of heated debate among military and political officials from each nation.
As a result of North Korea’s missile tests and repeated nuclear threats, the United States and South Korea moved up the deployment time-table on the THAAD missile defense system. The system was projected to be in place by the end of the year, but was instead declared operational earlier this week, prompting a new round of complaints from North Korea about the militarization of the border between the two nations by a third-party – and from China who is concerned about the THAAD’s advanced radar system being capable of spying on military assets within the Chinese border – though in recent weeks they’ve adjusted their rhetoric to suggest that their concerns are strictly over increasing tensions with North Korea.
“We’re opposed to the United States deploying the THAAD anti missile system in South Korea, and we urge all sides involved to immediately halt deployment,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters.
“China has always believed that using peaceful means via dialogue and consultation to resolve the peninsula’s nuclear issue is the only realistic, feasible means to achieve denuclearization of the peninsula and maintain peace and stability there, and is the only correct choice.”
Admiral Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, addressed Chinese concerns about the THAAD system being placed in South Korea, chiding them for being so concerned about a purely defensive platform in the face of increasingly aggressive North Korean statements.
“I find it preposterous that China would try to influence South Korea to not get a weapon’s system that’s completely defensive against the very country that’s allied with China,” Admiral Harris told a House panel last week. “If China wants to do something constructive then they ought to focus less, in my opinion, on South Korea’s defensive preparations focus instead more on North Korea’s offensive preparations.”
Image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force