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Kim Jong Un is closer than ever to all-out war


KCNA via Reuters

They play war games on both sides of the North-South line between the two Koreas, getting closer to reality but stopping short of killing their enemies.

First there were American and South Korean warplanes, more than 240 of them led by F-35s configured for their two air forces, then North Korean warnings of retaliation, followed by volley after volley of North Korean missile and cannon fire.

North Korean gunners kept up the pace on Thursday by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile of the type that could theoretically carry a warhead toward the United States.

The missile did not fly over Japan, as originally feared, but dramatized the North’s strategy of intimidating the United States and its two Northeast Asian allies, Japan and South Korea. , as residents of northern prefectures in Japan were urged to seek shelter. North Korea also fired two other short-range missiles in addition to all those fired on Wednesday.

With each shot, it looked like war was getting closer, especially after two North Korean shots made waves south of what is called the Northern Limit Line below which North Korean ships are prohibited.

North Korea doesn’t recognize the dotted lines on maps drawn by the Americans and South Koreans after the end of the Korean War, and they proved it on Wednesday with a missile fired near an obscure South Korean island. Korean named Ulleungdo 75 miles off the east coast. to trigger air raid sirens on the island. It also prompted the South to test a few of its own missiles and make South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol swear that the North would pay “a clear price for the provocations”.

But how far would the North Koreans be willing to go? And would Kim Jong Un follow through by ordering the North’s seventh nuclear test, its first since September 2017?

The Secret Weapons Program Spirals Under America’s Nose

“Frankly, I don’t know,” said Joseph DeTrani, a seasoned U.S. negotiator who clashed with the North Koreans before they cut off talks more than a decade ago. DeTrani, however, insisted that the United States and South Korea must stick to their weapons, insisting on “complete denuclearization”, although Kim made it clear how much he loves his nukes and his weapons. missiles.

Kim Jong Un recently spoke of “tactical nuclear weapons” capable of hitting small targets like a bridge or an airfield, but North Korea does much better with simple artillery shells, of which around 100 have been fired by North Korean gunners off its east coast. what the two sides had agreed would be a “buffer zone” between them.

In fact, the North is so good at making them that it “secretly” sells them to Russia, according to John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. The transaction fits perfectly with Kim’s stated full support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, for which it was earlier reported that he was considering sending North Korean troops.

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<p>People watch a television screen showing a news program with archival footage of a North Korean missile test at a train station in Seoul on November 2, 2022.</p>
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<div class="inline-image__credit">Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty</div>
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People watch a television screen showing a news program with archival footage of a North Korean missile test at a train station in Seoul on November 2, 2022.

Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty

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People watch a TV screen showing a news broadcast with archival footage of a North Korean missile test at a train station in Seoul on November 2, 2022.

Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty

The North Koreans, of course, had given many warnings about what they might do if the United States and South Koreans proceeded with this week’s exercise. As the United States and South Korea sent warplanes closer to the demilitarized zone, the North’s foreign ministry warned ominously of “more powerful follow-up measures”.

For the United States and South Korea, however, defiance was the key word, all in line with President Yoon’s policy to get tough with the North after five years of failed appeasement efforts by his liberal predecessor.

American and South Korean warplanes were making just that point, taking off from several different bases, supporting marines and soldiers on the ground, showing what they could do if Kim Jong Un took another fateful step and actually ordered a strike against the South as he had done. been threatening. In a show of air power, American B52 and B1 heavy bombers based in Guam and Japan were also due to join the parade, refueled in the air by an Australian KC30A tanker aircraft in a show of Allied solidarity.

The war games – the largest aerial demonstration by the United States and South Korea since the early post-Korean War years – matched the North Koreans’ largest display of their growing missile expertise.

Having already tested more than 40 missiles this year, Kim asked his forces to fire at least 25 more shots from short- and medium-range models as proof that he could easily hit American and South Korean bases. The most obvious target would be Camp Humphreys, the largest US base overseas, headquarters for the 28,500 US troops currently in South Korea. Several miles from Humphreys is Osan Air Force Base, headquarters of the US Seventh Air Force, from where most of the planes flew.

The war games, first the US and South Korean air show and then the North Korean response, abruptly distracted from a week-long mourning period in South Korea for the 156 people , 101 women, 55 men, mostly children in their 20s, also a few teenagers and a middle schooler, who died in a Halloween crush in Seoul’s booming Itaewon neighborhood, the GI’s playground before the United States and United Nations Command moved to Camp Humphreys, 40 miles south of Seoul, four years ago.

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<p>A South Korean air force F-15K fires an air-to-surface missile north of its maritime border with North Korea, in this handout provided by the South Korean Defense Ministry on November 2 2022.</p ></div>
<p> <classe div="inline-image__credit">South Korean Defense Ministry/Yonhap via Reuters</div>
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A South Korean air force F-15K fires an air-to-surface missile north of its maritime border with North Korea, in this handout provided by the South Korean Defense Ministry on November 2 2022.

South Korean Defense Ministry/Yonhap via Reuters

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A South Korean air force F-15K fires an air-to-surface missile north of its maritime border with North Korea, in this handout provided by the South Korean Defense Ministry on November 2 2022.

South Korean Defense Ministry/Yonhap via Reuters

No sooner had Yoon expressed his deepest condolences and lashed out at the police for not anticipating the crowd of 100,000 and acting more quickly to rescue the victims than he was issuing statements. and called “emergency” meetings to see what to do about the North Koreans. .

But would American and South Korean war games really accomplish much to bring Kim Jong Un back to negotiations, let alone give up his precious nuclear weapons?

US vows to teach Kim Jong Un a lesson after missile over Japan

“More than 240 aircraft, many of them F-35s, will fly 1,300 to 1,400 combat sorties,” said Evans Revere, a retired senior US diplomat with years of experience in Korea. “I don’t think it will escape Pyongyang’s attention.”

Yes, he told The Daily Beast, “it’s similar (although MUCH bigger) to things we’ve done in the past.” Yet, he said, “by increasing the scope and frequency of our exercises, we are placing a major burden on the NK regime, which will have to react, use a lot of previous fuel, fly (and break) planes, spend missiles, etc.”

“Every time we move, they have to move, and they can hardly afford to,” Revere said. “If we can continue like this, it will significantly increase the cost to NK of its current course. And if we can add new overt and covert economic measures after the nuclear test, it could inflict a lot of pain on their system. ”

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