On Monday, the US and South Korea launched large-scale joint military exercises, spurring sharp criticism from Pyongyang. The official Korean Central News Agency announced that the country’s army and the nation were ready to fight a “sacred war” against the South Korean and American “warmongers”.
The drills consist of a joint command post exercise “Key Resolve” coupled with “Foal Eagle”, a joint air, ground, and naval field training exercise. The last phase of the war games is to wrap up on April 30, 2012.
The North Koreans have expressed their concern that these large-scale military exercises can aggravate tensions not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in the whole region. Pyongyang further renounced responsibility for any repercussions these drills may give rise to, in what was reminiscent of the situation preceding the 2010 Yeonpyeong Island shelling. North Korea also said it was difficult to predict how this conflict would evolve. North Korea seems to be particularly outraged by the fact that the war games are taking place during the mourning period of Kim Jong-il’s death in December 2011.
The joint military maneuvers by Seoul and Washington have indeed been very poorly timed. Even more disturbing is the fact that they will last for two month, says Prof. Sergei Luzyanin, Deputy Director at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“Tensions will remain high on the Korean Peninsula for two months running. This will lead to a dire situation in the military sphere, as well as in the international politics and in the Korean relations. The reason for this is not even the maneuvers per se – they are not the first and, alas, not the last. But these maneuvers are being carried out specifically because there has been a power change in Pyongyang. The young Kim Jong-un is only now taking the reins in his hands. He is inexperienced and heavily relies on the military brass. Kim Jong-un isn’t versed in politics. Hence, large-scale US-South Korea drills are a clear provocation to spark retaliation from North Korea.”
According to Prof. Luzyanin, the pending denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula raises additional concern amid collapsing six-party talks. Russia’s proximity to this hotspot region accounts for its resolve to alleviate tensions and bring the North and the South back to the negotiating table, the pundit says.
Moscow cannot accept North Korea’s nuclear status, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stressed in his latest article, published Monday. The premier once again reiterated Russia’s intent to seek Korea’s denuclearization through diplomatic means. According to Vladimir Putin, who is now vying for the presidency, this issue should be tackled with extreme care. Any attempts to test the strength of the new North Korean leader could trigger rash countermeasures and are therefore highly inadvisable, the Russian PM said.