As if escalating tensions with Russia and China weren’t troubling enough, U.S. military buildup near North Korea is being taken as a threat of invasion. Yesterday, Pyongyang threatened a “merciless and annihilating” nuclear strike against United States forces should there be any indication of military provocation.
Simply put, if the U.S. continues to arrogantly and imprudently play with fire on multiple fronts, nuclear war will result.
Pyongyang’s warning comes after U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) deployed three nuclear-capable B-2 bombers to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on August 10 in response to North Korea’s repeated test firings of ballistic missiles. North Korea, however, took the deployment as a sign of near-imminent armed aggression.
“The U.S. attempt to invade the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is getting ever more reckless,” a North Korean official said in a signed statement cited by South Korean news agency, Yonhap.
“The U.S. evermore undisguised reinforcement of the nuclear force goes to clearly prove that it is trying to make a preemptive nuclear strike at the DPRK a fait accompli.”
“The right to make a preemptive nuclear strike is not the monopoly of the U.S.,” the statement ominously added. “The DPRK’s revolutionary armed forces … are ready to deal a merciless and annihilating blow to the enemy if they make even the slightest provocation.”
In addition to the nuclear B-2s, the U.S. has also replaced its ailing Guam fleet of B-52s with an unknown number of long-range B-1 bombers and has deployed hundreds of forces to the air base.
“The B-1 units bring a unique perspective and years of repeated combat and operational experience from the Central Command theater to the Pacific,” an Air Force statement cited by Japan Times explained at the end of July. “They will provide a significant rapid global strike capability that enables our readiness and commitment to deterrence, offers assurance to our allies, and strengthens regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
North Korea also asserted the deployment directly contradicts Washington’s calls for “denuclearization” — a valid, if biting, criticism given President Obama’s flagrant hypocrisy in the matter.
During his visit to Hiroshima in May, Obama reiterated the need for “a world without nuclear weapons” — just days after a report from the Department of Defense revealed, as the Washington Post put it, “the government Obama oversees — a government which manages the second-largest nuclear stockpile in the world — had dismantled fewer of its nuclear devices than in any year since at least 1980.”
Considering the $1 trillion putative ‘modernization’ of the U.S. nuclear weapons supply — and the recent announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration that billions would be allotted to upgrade the B61 airborne nuclear bomb — Pyongyang’s interpretation of American presence in the turbulent Asia-Pacific theater doesn’t seem off the mark.
Indeed, tensions in the South China Sea and surrounding area have escalated to alarming proportions in recent months.
South Korea recently agreed to deploy the U.S. anti-missile defense system THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) to the consternation of both China and North Korea, whose recent ballistic missile tests are thought to be in direct response. In fact, THAAD deployment sparked heated controversy in South Korea, as well, with at least one report citing a prominent opposition leader saying President Park Geun-hye could theoretically face impeachment over the decision.
Though, superficially, THAAD could be viewed as an aggressive act, as Ankit Panda wrote for the Diplomat, by design it is constrained to use as a defense system — the Terminal portion of the system’s name has to do with intercepting and destroying missiles in their ‘terminal’ stage, as they fall to earth — thus North Korea’s and China’s affront seems at least somewhat unfounded.
Nonetheless, North Korea resorted to its oft-repeated vow to turn Seoul into a “sea of flames” — this time backing up the assertion with a propagandic CGI-enhanced video replete with boasts of the country’s military prowess.
Pyongyang’s response of ‘testing’ ballistic missiles also worried U.S. ally, Japan — now also seriously considering a THAAD deployment.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement cum dark portent on the matter, quoted by International Business Times, calling the U.S. “the sworn enemy of the Korean people,” and saying:
“Finding it hard to bring down the DPRK by force of arms, the U.S. is now making last-ditch efforts to tarnish its international image and stir up the atmosphere of putting international pressure on it by kicking up the anti-DPRK ‘human rights’ racket. Under this situation, the DPRK will bolster up in every way its self-defensive military capabilities with nuclear deterrence in order to safeguard its power and revolution.”
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department updated its travel warning strongly urging U.S. citizens to refrain from travel to North Korea, advising visitors to the country could be swiftly arrested and indefinitely detained for “actions that in the United States would not be considered crimes,” and that detainees would be “treated in accordance with the ‘wartime law of the DPRK.’”
This constant volleying of responses to perceived threats has the very real potential to ignite the world’s first nuclear war — whether the first spark will be credited to the United States, North Korea, Russia, China, or someone else — particularly as none of the players have given any indication they plan to back off to let cooler heads prevail.