North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared a "quasi-state of war" after convening an emergency meeting of his military leaders, with the Korean People's Army (KPA) "ready to launch surprise operations," the North's official KCNA agency reported Aug. 21. There are ominous reports that the KPA is preparing a missile strike on the South. Preparations at missile launch sites near Pyongyang were reportedly detencted by South Korean and US military monitors. The escalation comes following an exchange of artillery fire across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Aug. 20. Tensions have been rising since an Aug. 4 incident that saw two South Korean soldiers severely wounded by a mine explosion along the DMZ, with Seoul and the UN Command claiming North Korea troops intentionally placed the mine on a path known to be used by South Korean patrols. In response, South Korea has renewed anti-DPRK propaganda broadcasts along the DMZ. Media reports in the West are not emphasizing that the esclation also comes amid the joint US-South Korea "Ulchi Freedom Guardian" military exercise. The annual exercise, which runs from Aug. 17-28, involves 30,000 US troops and 50,000 South Korean. According to a statement from the Combined Forces Command (CFC) in South Korea, UFG is "a routine and defense-oriented exercise designed to enhance CFC readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula." The exercise was briefly suspended following the artillery exchange, but has now been resumed. (NK News, NK News, Business Insider, Aug. 21; Asia Times, Aug. 20)
Korea escalation amid US military exercise —again
And here we go again. In response to North Korea's very dubious claim to have carried out its first H-bomb test in January, the US and South Korea hold thier "largest ever" joint military exercise, Operation Foal Eagle 2016. North Korea, in turn, responds by firing two medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The good news is that there were protests held, actually within sight of the maneuvers. "This drill is not defensive. It's an act of war," said Choi Eu Na, a member of a group that calls itself Anti-War Peace Action. "I wish this aggressive stance, including that of North Korea, would stop hostile drills and start a peaceful atmosphere." (NYT, CNN, March 17; The Independent, March 16; CNN, March 12; CNN, Jan. 7)