Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are spiraling. Pyongyang has launched two missiles from a submarine while Washington and Seoul have opened massive military drills in South Korea. North Korea believes there is a “realistic” chance of nuclear war and the US is deploying more strategic assets to the region.
On Monday, American and South Korean troops embarked on a new round of joint military drills. Dubbed Foal Eagle, the war games are the largest exercises the two countries have held since 2018. Under President Donald Trump, the maneuvers were canceled amid efforts at diplomacy with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
However, President Joe Biden has maintained a more bellicose policy towards Pyongyang. In the past two years, the US has resumed live-fire war games, conducted missile tests, deployed strategic weapons platforms to the Korean Peninsula, threatened to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, and has failed to offer the DPRK any acceptable terms for diplomacy.
Kim has reacted sharply to Biden’s threats and increased military activity on the peninsula. Last year, North Korea conducted 69 missile tests, a record number. Some of the rockets were fired over Japanese territory. Pyongyang additionally tested an underwater silo that can launch nuclear-capable missiles.
Last month, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the supreme leader and a senior official in the ruling Workers’ Party, said the war games would compel Pyongyang to respond. “The demonstrative military moves and all sorts of rhetoric by the US and South Korea, which go so extremely frantic as not to be overlooked, undoubtedly provide [North Korea] with conditions for being forced to do something to cope with them,” she said. Kim additionally warned the “frequency” with which North Korea uses the Pacific Ocean as its ‘firing range’ would depend directly “upon the US forces’ action character.”
In the days after Kim’s remarks, American and South Korean military officials announced the Foal Eagle war games. Washington will deploy an aircraft carrier to the region and send Reaper drones to the peninsula for the first time. The North Korean leader said the military drills were “frantic war preparation moves,” even as Washington and Seoul insist the war games are for defensive purposes only.
On Sunday, Pyongyang launched two missiles from a submarine, though South Korea says it only tracked one projectile.
According to the Hill, the “US intelligence agencies concluded last week that North Korea had been timing its missile tests to coincide with joint military exercises between the US and South Korea.”
In November, the US and South Korea conducted the Vigilant Storm joint military air drills. Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response. Washington and Seoul then extended the war games and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US would increase its military presence on the peninsula.