The Wall Street Journal reports: American defense officials are vowing additional displays of advanced U.S. military might as they continue joint maneuvers with South Korea in the midst of growing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Defense officials declined to detail their next steps, citing operational security concerns. But a new show of force would come after a pair of B-2 bombers flew over South Korea on Thursday and dropped dummy munitions. Earlier this month, U.S. B-52s flew over the peninsula.
The assertive U.S. response came in an intensifying exchange of threats and oaths with North Korea and as Russia and China appealed for calm. U.S. officials are seeking to dissuade Pyongyang from rash steps while assuring allies that, if necessary, American force would be used to defend them.
Pentagon officials said they expected to see still-more-heated rhetoric from North Korea. With joint U.S.-South Korean exercises scheduled to last for about 45 more days, there also will be additional demonstrations of American firepower.
“The United States will continue to demonstrate unique advanced capabilities as these exercises continue,” said a defense official.
Although the use of U.S. heavy bombers risks provoking the North into a dangerous miscalculation, U.S. officials believe the joint exercises with South Korea ultimately will have a stabilizing effect.
Robert Mackey interviewed B. R. Myers, a North Korea analyst at Dongseo University in South Korea who said:
We need to keep in mind that North and South Korea are not so much trading outright threats as trading blustering vows of how they would retaliate if attacked. The North says, “If the U.S. or South Korea dare infringe on our territory we will reduce their territory to ashes,” and Seoul responds by saying it will retaliate by bombing Kim Il-sung statues. And so it goes. I think the international press is distorting the reality somewhat by simply publishing the second half of all these conditional sentences. And I have to say from watching North Korea’s evening news broadcasts for the past week or so, the North Korean media are not quite as wrapped up in this war mood as one might think. The announcers spend the first 10 minutes or so reporting on peaceful matters before they start ranting about the enemy.
The regime is exploiting the tension to motivate the masses to work harder on various big first-economy projects, especially the land-reclamation drive now under way on the east coast. Workers are shown with clenched fists, spluttering at the U.S. and South Korea, and vowing to work extra hard as a way of venting their rage.
It is all very similar to last year’s sustained vilification of South Korea’s then-president, Lee Myung-bak, when you had miners saying that they imagined Lee’s face on the rocks they were breaking, and so on. The regime can no longer fire up people with any coherent or credible vision of a socialist future, so it tries to cast the entire work force — much as other countries do in times of actual war — as an adjunct to the military. Work places are “battlegrounds,” and all labor strengthens the country for the final victory of unification, etc.
So, given these domestic reasons for North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and given that it’s threats are all retaliatory threats, why should the U.S. respond with displays of American might? It seems like the U.S. itself is trapped in its own knee jerk reactions and a fabricated need to assume a military posture where none is required.