Exactly what is happening with the U.S.’s relationship with North Korea? If anything, the last two weeks have given hope to those who want to avoid war. North Korea and South Korea have engaged in talks, and even agreed to create a unified Olympic team. Yet the U.S. continues to quietly build its military resources in the area.
The U.S. trains with South Korea every year. Those drills are partly a show of resolve, but the training does have a practical aspect, too. Because of the Olympics and Paralympics, joint exercises will be delayed. Yet the training continues.
“At Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month,” the New York Times writes, “a mix of 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters took off in an exercise that practiced moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets. Two days later, in the skies above Nevada, 119 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division parachuted out of C-17 military cargo planes under cover of darkness in an exercise that simulated a foreign invasion.”
While the foreign invasion seems a far-fetched scenario, the threat of artillery dominates the Korean peninsula.
“Next month,” the Times continues, “at Army posts across the United States, more than 1,000 reserve soldiers will practice how to set up so-called mobilization centers that move military forces overseas in a hurry.”
These exercises here are easy to dismiss. After all, it is the Army’s job to prepare itself in a time of peace. Yet the movement of planes and ships is more obvious. The Air Force moved B-52s to Guam this week.
The Navy has sent the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Wasp, and the USS Bonhomme to join the USS Ronald Regan in the Pacific.
President Trump’s cabinet has been active, too. “At a meeting of foreign ministers from 20 countries this week in Vancouver, British Columbia,” Business Insider writes, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed sanctions implementation for North Korea, while Secretary of Defense James Mattis briefed them on the US’s plan for military strikes.”
National security adviser, H.R. McMaster, continues to dismiss the news of Korean talks and sportsmanship as a kind of showmanship.
The real diversion, of course, is the Olympic games. How will North Korea handle the pressure of having the world on its doorstep? Rumors abound. Some speculate that there will be a military parade. Others are focusing on the possibility of a satellite launch.
Both would be a test of President Trump who continues to draw lines in the sand. Even the New York Times hints at the possibility of a preemptive strike as an option to prove the U.S.’s resolve.
While that’s a possibility, “The military’s job is to be fully ready for whatever contingencies might be on the horizon,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, a top Pentagon official in the Obama administration and co-founder of WestExec Advisors, a strategic consultancy in Washington.
“Even if no decision on North Korea has been made and no order has been given,” Ms. Flournoy said, “the need to be ready for the contingency that is top of mind for the president and his national security team would motivate commanders to use planned exercise opportunities to enhance their preparation, just in case.”