This week, the United States and its South Korean ally begin their annual Foal Eagle joint-military exercise, the largest ever, encompassing more than 17,000 U.S. soldiers and more than 300,000 South Korean soldiers, a figure more than double those of previous years, according to South Korean military officials.
During the weekend ahead of these long-planned exercises, the North Koreans threatened a “pre-emptive and offensive nuclear strike” as a response to what they believe are “undisguised nuclear-war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK.”
These threats by the North Korean government are as regular as the annual daylight saving “spring forward” that heralds the upcoming spring season.
In addition to this annual posturing between the Koreans, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, announced the latest technological advance in their ongoing march toward world domination: the miniaturization of nuclear warheads. South Korea dismissed this latest statement as just another outrageous claim by the DPRK. Washington officials concur, though the DoD alerted U.S. ballistic missile defenses to prepare for the unlikely event that Kim Jong-un was being truthful. Along those lines, the U.S. has deployed three B-2 bombers to Diego Garcia to provide “consistent and credible air power” across the region.
Since assuming power, Kim Jong-un has become more and more outspoken, even unstable, in his statements and threats. Earlier this year, the DPRK state press agency, the KCNA, announced a successful detonation of a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Of course, this was immediately disputed by experts around the world, as the resulting blast was entirely too small.
As 2016 is an election year for the U.S., and one many consider decisive for the nation’s future, perhaps this has something to do with the DPRK’s increased anti-Western rhetoric. What’s disconcerting is how little we know about North Korea’s newest “dear leader,” with only bits and pieces coming out of the peninsula and much of it from unreliable sources such as the KCNA or basketball bad-boy Dennis Rodman. Side note, I have nothing but great memories of Rodman as an avid Bulls fan, however, how about staying on the shallow side of the foreign-policy pool, Dennis?
Speculation abounds as to what lies in store for future North Korean/U.S. relations in the coming months and years. Moreover, as we count down the months until we open a brand new executive administration in 2017, the choices we face as to who’s at the helm of our foreign-policy ship are becoming increasingly scary with every new sound bite by Trump and allegation against Clinton. What’s the number of that doomsday prepper bunker builder again? Might need to get that going as the ground thaws up here in the great white Chicago north.