U.S. Pledges Further Show of Force in Korea

Posted: March 30, 2013 by Ellion hossain in News
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Officials Aim to Discourage Pyongyang From Rash Action With More Displays of Military Might, Following B-2 Flyover


North Koreans punch the air during a mass rally at Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang on Friday, amid escalating tensions.


WASHINGTON—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.

How far did B-2 stealth bombers travel for a “practice run” in South Korea? Why is North Korea threatening missile strikes against U.S. cities like Austin, Texas? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has the Short Answer.


In the U.S. view, provocations by Kim Jong Eun, the young North Korean leader, so far have been variations on actions taken by Pyongyang in the past.

“The North is running the same playbook, but using their more aggressive options. Everything they have done, they have done before,” said the defense official. “The real worry will be when they throw out the playbook.”

A key unanswered question, one U.S. official said, is how much risk Mr. Kim was willing to take to show “he’s a tough guy.”

“His inexperience is certain—his wisdom is still very much in question,” the U.S. official said.

Seoul is expected to respond militarily should Mr. Kim go beyond threats and do something akin to attacking a South Korean ship, as North Korea did three years ago.

Under a U.S.-South Korean “counterprovocation plan” completed earlier this month, Seoul will have a framework for responding to the North’s belligerence, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

The agreement establishes both a minimum- and maximum-level response that should be taken by Seoul to future provocations by Pyongyang, with U.S. backing.

Creating an agreed-on response, U.S. officials argue, ensures that the South responds forcefully—theoretically not in a manner that escalates the crisis, but instead deters the North from further attacks.

The top American commander on the peninsula, Army Gen. J.D. Thurman, helped devise the counterprovocation plan.

Gen. Thurman also oversees the annual military maneuvers under way, known as Foal Eagle, as well as an accompanying war game, called Key Resolve.

The commander demonstrated the war game recently to top U.S. defense officials visiting Command Post Tango, the war-fighting headquarters for the U.S. and South Korean forces, located inside an underground bunker in South Korea.

“It was as if it could have been real,” said Mark Lippert, an assistant defense secretary for Asia, who traveled to South Korea along with Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Gen. Thurman “was going through the options in a way that instills a lot of confidence.”

Gen. Thurman remains in constant contact with top South Korean political and military leaders and delivers regular detailed updates to Washington on the situation, said Mr. Lippert.

U.S. officials and Asian experts also are closely watching the expected convening, as early as Sunday, of the Central Committee of the North’s Communist Party to gauge what steps Mr. Kim will take next. The meeting is expected to clarify the young leader’s position on North Korea’s nuclear program, military strategy toward the U.S. and possible engagement with Washington and Seoul.

“The meeting should make it clear what’s going on in Pyongyang,” said a South Korean official. “It could reveal if there’s any in-fighting going on concerning recent policies.”

Administration and defense officials said they expected more threats from Pyongyang. “North Korea has had a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats,” said a senior administration official. “While we do take their threats seriously, this rhetoric does follow a pattern that we have seen for decades.”





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