Saturday, April 19, 2014

War Games

U.S. and ROK conduct joint military exercises

The U.S. armed forces regularly conduct joint military exercises with nations around the world. Recently, the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK) held two annual military drills, known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle. Key Resolve, which ran from February 24th to March 6th of this year, focused on command post exercises, while Foal Eagle, which also began on February 24th and concluded yesterday, April 18th, concentrated on field training drills. These latest drills continue to highlight the close alliance that the U.S. and ROK have and the importance that the U.S. assigns to maintaining stability and inter-operability readiness in Asia.

However, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) are often less than enthusiastic about these joint drills and every time they are conducted, tensions rise. Are the exercises crucial and do they serve as a deterrent to others and a way to maintain military readiness and effectiveness?  Or do they unnecessarily provoke the DPRK and aggravate the PRC, resulting in an increase of anxiety and frustration during an already tense time? While the PRC potentially seems more concerned about joint training between the U.S. military and Japan’s Self-Defense Force, especially last year’s exercise held in California (and Japan’s recent announcement of intentions to fortify an island near the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands will surely provoke the already agitated PRC), the DPRK fixates on Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

For the past 53 years the U.S. and ROK have held these exercises and undoubtedly, each year it angers, and worries, the DPRK. Although the DPRK condemns the exercises every time they occur, this year, in the middle of the drills, the DPRK and the ROK exchanged fire over their east coast maritime border and the DPRK threatened “a new form of nuclear test.” With the amplified rhetoric and increased boldness of the DPRK, the ROK has good reason to be especially wary of its neighbor to the north. The DPRK conducted its third nuclear test last year and its leadership continues to be unpredictable. 

While few believe that the DPRK could actually launch a nuclear strike that would reach America, the threat of any sort of aggression to U.S. allies in Asia is more legitimate. Given America’s close alliances in the region, finding ways to alleviate the tension and avoid an armed conflict is certainly within America’s best interest. Holding joint military exercises is an excellent way to ensure the preparedness of our allies, but caution should be taken to avoid further escalating the situation. While some no longer pay attention to the embellished statements coming from the Kim regime (who threatened an “unimaginable holocaust” should the U.S. and the ROK conducted the drills), the fact that the DPRK and its decision making process remain so opaque should concern others enough to continue to closely monitor the situation there. 

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