News breaks that Otto Warmbier, a United States student who was being held in North Korea, died after his release.
The drill coincides with the four-day “Ulji Freedom Guardian” military manoeuvres on August 21-24, which are held yearly and include joint exercises by the USA and South Korean armed forces, as well as drills for emergencies.
Japan’s missile defences include sea and land components. “In this regard, North Korea’s recently issued statements of threats are in direct opposition to the worldwide community’s consensus, and must stop immediately”. US President Donald Trump tweeted Friday. “Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
Still, a certain island calm prevails amid the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
The heightened military activity on the peninsula this time is a concern because it could increase the possibility of a mishap or an overreaction of some sort by either side that could spin into a more serious escalation.
Pyongyang is also switching its propaganda machine into high gear by bringing in a large number of foreign journalists to ensure it gets global attention for an event next week in honour of its ruling Kim family on Mount Paektu, a dormant volcano that straddles the Chinese border and is something of a spiritual home for the regime.
On Friday, South Korean defense officials confirmed that the exercises are billed to commence without delays, but declined to give more details.
USA nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker, who has repeatedly visited North Korea’s nuclear facilities, said he doesn’t think North Korea now has weapons systems for “enveloping fire” around Guam, as it threatened. It has seen various popular movements pushing for greater self-government or even US statehood, most notably a significant but failed effort in the 1980s to make it a commonwealth on par with Puerto Rico.
August 8: Trump responds by saying North Korea will be met with “fire and fury”.
The president insisted the North had been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed”.
“We have to understand that even in a million-to-one scenario we have to be prepared with Guam being what it has been for decades, an American territory with strategic military assets in place in a very dynamic region. As a result, asking to do that for the first time, if it does, great”, he said.
Since Mr. Trump’s election victory in November, Mr. Abe has been an eager guest at Trump Tower in NY and at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida resort, where the two men bonded in February over golf and responded to a North Korean missile test in full view of diners. Japan’s defense official said that Tokyo would invoke its right to collective self-defense if North Korean missiles are judged to be an existential threat to Japan. Moon has said South Korea would take “a driver’s seat” in trying to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis diplomatically, not through force. The U.S. took control of Guam in 1898, when Spanish authorities surrendered to the U.S. Navy.
With all the sabre-rattling of North Korea and the prospect of the waters off Guam becoming a new testing ground for its intermediate-range missiles, the people of this tiny U.S. Pacific territory seem to be taking things in their stride.
“I don’t believe they have the capability to do so yet, and besides, why would they want to commit suicide by attacking a remote target like Guam?” he said.
“High-ranking American officials too should refrain from using excessive language”, said the party’s chairwoman, Choo Mi-ae, without mentioning Mr. Trump by name.