There’s always a U.S. military presence in South Korea, but in the past few days, a number of high-profile announcements have highlighted that fact in the face of even more bellicose statements from North Korea.
In the latest “show of force,” which has been requested by the South Korean government, the U.S. Air Force flew a group of B1-B Lancer bombers from Anderson Air Base on Guam Tuesday night to conduct a new round of joint training exercises with Japanese and South Korean aircraft. They then conducted air-to-surface missile tests in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.
Air Force Maj. Patrick Applegate of the 613th Air Operation Center said:
"Flying and training at night with our allies in a safe, effective manner is an important capability shared between the U.S., Japan and the Republic of Korea and hones the tactical prowess of each nations’ aviators. This is a clear demonstration of our ability to conduct seamless operations with all of our allies anytime, anywhere."
That follows another demonstration of U.S. military reach with the arrival last weekend of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Tucson in the South Korean port of Jinhae. According to the U.S. Pacific Command:
With a crew of approximately 150, Tucson can conduct a multitude of missions and maintain proficiencies of the latest capabilities of the submarine fleet. Tucson's crew operates with a high state of readiness and is always prepared to tackle any mission that comes their way.
This comes as North Korea has made even more threats against the U.S. and its allies. Among the claims:
- South Korean “warmongers” are desperate to ignite a war with North Korea,
- Japan and South Korea have committed crimes against humanity,
- The United Nations Security Council is a “marionette” of the U.S.,
- UN sanctions against North Korea are “acts of war,” and
- “The devil always leaves a stink behind him” (referring to President Donald Trump).
In particular, Kim Jong-un’s propaganda machine has targeted Japan. Among the commentaries blasting its former World War II occupier was this:
Should Japan take the advantages of the US war racket, they can not but be a target of the powerful strike means of the DPRK’s revolutionary armed forces. Japan can never be safe if a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula. Everything in Japan mobilized for the war can be destroyed to pieces, to say nothing of the US aggression bases there. The Japanese authorities are strongly warned that if they go reckless with the backing of the US they can bring irrevocable misfortune to the Japanese archipelago.
Another major force demonstration could arrive later this month, if the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrives in the Sea of Japan as many are expecting. The flattop would operate in conjunction with USS Ronald Reagan, which is already forward-deployed to the region and is expected to take part in a joint exercise with South Korea in the Sea of Japan later this month.
Such a move would likely be temporary as Roosevelt’s deployment is supposed to eventually bring it to the Persian Gulf, where it will replace USS Nimitz.
The president is expected to visit South Korea as part of his Asian tour next month. Reportedly, that visit will include a personal appearance at the Demilitarized Zone. He will also visit Japan, China, and the Philippines during the tour.