Two venerable annual events are currently in progress on the Korean peninsula: the annual U.S.-South Korean joint military exercise and North Korea threatening to launch a nuclear war because of said exercise.
Fox News points out that the Ulchi Freedom Guardian Drills, a 12-day exercise that began on Monday, “are largely computer-simulated war games,” involving 25,000 U.S. troops and 50,000 South Koreans.
North Korea always complains about these drills, portraying them as either the prelude to an invasion, or the disguised opening gambit in an actual invasion — as if it will suddenly be revealed, halfway through the exercise, that the U.S. and South Korean troops are carrying live ammo and are heading straight for Pyongyang.
How this cunning strategy would work with largely computer-simulated wargames is anyone’s guess, but it is widely assumed that North Korea’s exceptionally vicious response this year is due to the defection of diplomat Thae Yong Ho in London. As Fox News observes, he has been denounced as “human scum” and accused of crimes, including sexual assault on a minor, by the Communist regime’s media.
The North’s anger is not just personal outrage directed at Thae Yong Ho. As Korea JoongAng Daily reports, South Korean President Park Geun-hye hosted a National Security Council meeting Monday morning, in which she made a “conspicuously strong remark questioning the stability of the Kim Jong-un regime.”
To wit, Park said the Communist regime is “taking no account of the people’s lives, while it oppresses the people with continuous rule by fear.”
“Recently, the elite in the North is even collapsing and high-profile figures are increasingly escaping their homeland and defecting to foreign countries. As the signs of serious cracks emerge, the regime’s instability is growing,” she suggested.
“The North is walking on an extreme path to maintain the regime’s security, and its key elite are increasingly betraying the regime and defecting one after another. We can never lower our guards. Cabinet members must accurately grasp the crisis and sternly counter any moves that will fuel internal conflicts in the South,” Park warned.
Pyongyang, therefore, issued a statement accusing the United States of “creating an evil cycle of tensions” and “bringing the grave danger of a nuclear war to the Korean peninsula,” as translated by Newsweek.
“It is the consistent stand of the [North Korean] government to fundamentally terminate the danger of a nuclear war posed by the U.S. by dint of the powerful nuclear deterrence and defend the regional and global peace,” the statement continued.
The KPA (“Korean People’s Army,” the North Korean military) said Washington and Seoul “should properly know that from this moment the first-strike combined units of the KPA keep themselves fully ready to mount a pre-emptive retaliatory strike at all enemy attack groups involved in Ulchi Freedom Guardian.”
“The nuclear warmongers should bear in mind that if they show the slightest sign of aggression on the inviolable land, seas and air where the sovereignty of the DPRK is exercized, it would turn the stronghold of provocation into a heap of ashes through Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike,” the North Korean statement concluded.
“It is regrettable that North Korea threatens to conduct a pre-emptive nuclear attack on the South,” responded South Korean unification ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee — a rather mild retort, given what the North Koreans are threatening to do, although the frequency of their nuclear threats probably creates a certain degree of weary resignation in South Korean officials. As NPR recalls, it’s scarcely been six months since the last time Pyongyang threatened a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice.”
The Yonhap news agency reports that South Korea’s government “warned over the weekend that it is likely that the North may carry out some sort of provocation during or after the on-going military exercise.”