Pyongyang has slammed the largest US-led military drills to be conducted close to North Korea’s borders as rattling the saber. Many see the move as a US pretext to step-up presence in the region with a view to containing China’s influence.
The drills threaten to bring “a new cloud of war to the region” said North Korea’s Defense Ministry on Thursday."The North's people and military are intensely watching the trilateral military drill,"
said ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun. It also urged the US to stop“reckless provocation”
in the region.
South Korea, Japan and the US are participating in the military drills that will span two days, involving destroyers, helicopters and nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier George Washington. Seoul has issued a statement saying that the drills will focus on humanitarian operations such as search and rescue missions.
Seoul said that Friday’s exercises would include 2,000 troops as well F-15K and KF-16 jet fighters and light-attack planes in a showcase of the nation’s "watertight defense posture and war-fighting capabilities."
The military games come at a time of rising tensions in the region following North Korea’s failed attempt at a rocket launch in April which was widely perceived as an attempt to test a ballistic missile.
Professor Joseph Cheng, a political analyst at Hong Kong University told RT that the war games would have a knock-on effect on the countries involved,“escalating the tensions in the region.”
Military exercises are common in the region and tend to generate ongoing friction punctuated by strong political rhetoric.
But the countries involved rarely overstep the mark, seeking to“maintain their communication lines open as they certainly do not want to see any sharp deterioration in their relationships,” Cheng says.
However, he said North Korea was an exception to this and could seek “to use the exercises as an excuse to terminate diplomatic dialogue and raise tensions in the area."
Professor Cheng stressed that the US is taking advantage of the breakdown in relations between North Korea and Japan and South Korea in order to step up its influence in the region.
“The US has been exploiting fully these hedging strategies to strengthen its return to the Asia strategy,” he said.
He underlined that China understands the sharpening of territorial disputes in the region and will seek to strengthen ties with North Korea’s neighbors with a view to curtailing US influence.
Dr. Tim Beal, author and Asia specialist, speaking to RT dismissed the exercises as“entirely contrived” and all to do with the elections in the US and South Korea.
“They’re not going to bite, same with the Chinese. We’re going to get a lot of strong words from Beijing and Pyongyang, but I doubt very much if we’ll get any action,” he said. He said the worst case scenario of the worsening diplomatic relations in the region could be all-out war between the US and China with Japan and South Korea squeezed in the middle.“As China goes up in the world and the US comes down this is going to be a continuing source of concern and danger for the whole world,”
Dr. Beal told RT.
The Obama administration announced its plans to significantly bolster its presence in the Asia-Pacific at the beginning of the month. It plans to shift 60 per cent of its naval might into the region by 2020, which China regards as an affront to its sovereignty.