Three weeks ago North Korea announced that if joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises were not called off by March 11 then they would consider the sixty-year old armistice between the two Koreas null. March 11 has come and gone. The U.S. and Korea are still exercising their militaries, and North Korea is still not happy about it. At all.
In an act that certainly didn’t de-escalate the situation, the U.S. sent a pair of B-2 stealth bombers cruising over the Korean peninsula. The two bombers left from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, says the Atlantic Wire, buzzed South Korea’s western coast, and then returned home.
Obviously, the test run demonstrates that the U.S. has the capability of flying that far without actually crossing into North Korea and it appears to be meant to send a message that the U.S. is willing to defend South Korea against the North. There’s also probably some historical symbolism thrown in. Hun adds, “After suffering from the American carpet-bombing during the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea remains particularly sensitive about U.S. bombers.”
“The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel,” says the Guardian, “said that the decision to send B-2 bombers to join the military drills was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke North Korea.”
But it did.
In response to the flights, says the BBC, North Korea trained its missiles on American and South Korean military bases, with the North Korean state news agency reporting that “the US mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea” were all being targeted.
As the BBC reports, “Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control… Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation could slip “toward the spiral of a vicious circle”.
Though North Korea has a long history of making quite threatening displays, an unnamed U.S official told NBC News that “North Korea is “not a paper tiger” and its repeated threats to attack South Korea and the U.S. should not be dismissed as “pure bluster.”
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