The Korean Peninsula has not been completely relieved of tensions and the involved countries should stay focused on denuclearization, Chinese experts said, after media reported on Sunday that the US has been conducting drills targeting North Korea’s ‘invasion.’
“The US has been putting pressure on both North and South Korea and saying that their current negotiations should expand to the nuclear issue,” Zhang Huizhi, a professor at Jilin University’s Northeast Asian Studies College, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US is quietly preparing for war against North Korea. “A mix of 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters took off in an exercise in North Carolina last month that practiced moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets,” it said. Two days later, in Nevada, 119 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division parachuted out of C-17 military cargo planes under cover of darkness in an exercise that simulated a foreign invasion.
About two dozen current and former Pentagon officials and senior commanders said that the exercises largely reflected the military’s response to orders from Defense Secretary James Mattis and service chiefs to be ready for any possible military action on the Korean Peninsula, The New York Times reported.
The report said the Pentagon also plans to send more Special Operations troops to the Korean Peninsula, with the Winter Olympics in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang opening next month.
“There were some drills by the US with Japan or South Korea in the past years, but it is rare for the US to conduct such drills on its own land by itself,” Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“The drills show that the US is seriously preparing for North Korea’s potential threat to the US’ native land,” Zhang said.
The US actions show its complex mind on the peninsula issue – on one hand, the US feels it meaningless that South and North Korea do not discuss denuclearization and are getting closer; but the US also hopes to keep all channels smooth with North Korea, Da noted, “so the US is making preparations at both ends.”
North Korea has agreed to send a 140-man orchestra to perform during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Seoul said on Monday.
Long way off
The North Korean nuclear issue is far from being resolved even though North and South Korea decided to communicate, experts said.
“The peninsula situation is not truly as relieved as it looks. Cooperation on culture and the arts does not mean the involved countries should give up the bottom line of denuclearization in North Korea,” Da said.
“The atmosphere built for negotiations should end up with serving denuclearization,” he said.
An emergency text alert on Saturday warning residents in the US state of Hawaii of an imminent ballistic missile threat was a false alarm caused by human error, state officials said.
“The alert, false or something else, has somehow heightened panic in Americans toward North Korea,” Da told the Global Times.
North Korea, which has been making friendly overtures to South Korea since New Year’s Day, may still pull out of the Olympics, the North Korean official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday, after South Korea gave the US credit for the Korean Peninsula issue.
The KCNA also accused South Korea of letting the US send another nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Stennis, to the West Pacific during the Pyeongchang Olympics, despite its agreement with Washington to postpone joint military drills during the games.
“They should know that trains and buses carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang,” it warned.
“The opportunity for negotiations on the North Korean nuclear issue could disappear in a flash – once missed, tensions could become more severe,” Zhang noted. “And US moves might somehow damage such an opportunity.”