A North Korean submarine operating off North Korea’s east coast has gone missing. Three senior officials revealed that U.S. aircraft, ships and satellites have been watching the North Korean navy search frantically for the missing submarine for days.
According to CNN reports, the U.S. authorities are not sure whether the subterranean vessel has sunk or is adrift underneath the sea, but they suspect the submarine may have suffered a failure during an exercise. North Korea has two submarine bases on the eastern coast and the submarine is believed to have been operating near these bases.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) March 12, 2016
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday towards the sea, east of the Korean Peninsula. On Saturday, 300,000 South Korean troops, 17,000 American soldiers and small detachment forces from New Zealand and Australia began an eight-week series of military drills exercises. Tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula recently.
The last few months have been contentious with North Korea’s claims of firing a satellite into orbit and testing a hydrogen bomb. The actions of the controversial nation sparked a moment of unity with member states of the United Nations Security Council, agreeing to punish Pyongyang with new sanctions. North Korea had shown its discontentment by firing short range projectiles the regime claimed to be miniaturized nuclear bombs.
North Korea has warned that it will take a “pre-emptive and offensive nuclear strike” in reaction to the joint exercises between the two allies. Reports indicate that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has ordered more tests to be carried out to increase his country’s ability to launch a nuclear attack, saying, “nuclear warheads need to be ready for use at any time.”
Kim Jong Un went on, “Under the extreme situation that the U.S. imperialist is misusing its military influence and is pressuring other countries and people to start war and catastrophe, the only way for our people to protect sovereignty and rights to live is to strengthen the quality and quantity of nuclear power and realize the balance of power.”
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) March 11, 2016
South Korea reacted through the Defense Ministry Spokesman Moon Sang-gyun, “As of now, there are no direct signs of provocation, but we are planning to continuously strengthen surveillance and we are playing close attention” to any signs of North Korean provocation.”
According to a U.S. military statement from Brigadier General Johnson Jansen of the U.S. Marines, the exercise had been planned for years and was not intended to heighten any tensions in the area. But he agreed that the military exercises would serve as a restraint to North Korea. “At the end of the day, we sincerely believe in peace through strength, and it is in the strength of our alliance that we believe that we can deter and avoid war,” he said.
Hundreds of Korean police officers have been positioned around coastal villages and beach fronts as the military demonstrations take place, warding off flag waving protesters who see it as an act of war rather than a military exercise.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Korea existed as one country, occupied by the Japanese. After World War II, liberated Korea experienced a power tussle with the U.S. and USSR supporting different political powers; a democratic one in Seoul and a communist one on Pyongyang.
North Korea invaded South Korea to unite the country under coercion. After the Korean war of 1953, an armistice was signed but 60 years later North and South Korea still remain foes.
Even after the war, the U.S has kept thousands of troops in South Korea, according to the U.S. Forces Korea webpage “to deter aggression and if necessary, defend the Republic of Korea to maintain stability in Northeast Asia.”
[Photo by Song Kyung-Seok – Pool/Getty Images]