Well publicized military exercises serve two distinct purposes. They prepare troops for potential conflicts, but they also can send a clear message to those who may need something more substantial than verbal warnings.
Why else would North Korea spend so much time shooting rockets into the Sea of Japan?
Now North Korea will once again be on the receiving end of the message. The Foal Eagle military drills that show our support and cooperation with South Korea are about to commence. This year’s line-up of U.S. troops includes some heavy hitters.
South Korea’s Joon Gang Daily reports that Foal Eagle will include F-35s, Army Special Forces, and SEAL Team 6. 3,600 U.S. troops are scheduled to join the estimated 28,000 currently stationed in South Korea for the joint exercise.
“A bigger number of and more diverse US special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities,” an unnamed South Korean military official told South Korea’s Yonhap News.
Just how these elements will be included in the exercises remains to be seen, but the South Korean media is reporting that the SEALs are there to prepare for an eventual overthrow of the North Korean regime, which they’re calling a decapitation attack.”
Business Insider, in their coverage of the story, sought clarification from The Pentagon. Spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross told the site that the US military “does not train for decapitation missions.” We can assume he meant both figuratively and literally.
That said, there has been an increase in North Korea’s calculated demonstrations of force, and the oppressive regime has been tolerated for some time. The new Trump Administration has stepped up attacks in Yemen and in Syria.
The presence of the SEAL Team raises the bar for U.S. participation, even if it is only symbolic. The SEAL team is currently on board the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier that is scheduled to arrive in South Korea Wednesday.
South Korea, confident of American support, is reportedly stepping up their preparations for war with their own special forces units. “[They] will send a very strong message to North Korea, which is constantly carrying out military provocations,” a ministry official told Joongang Daily.
It remains to be seen how North Korea will respond.