North Korea leader Kim Jong Un issued his latest dire threat against the United States military on Tuesday after he supervised another missile launch in his country’s apparently accelerating missile testing program the previous day. Calling the increased U.S. military presence in the Sea of Japan a “provocation,” Kim warned that he would “send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” as payback.
On Monday, the United States sent a pair of B-1B Lancer bomber jets flying over the Korean peninsula, in what South Korea called a joint military drill between the two countries. According to a report in The Korea Herald newspaper, the bombers flew within 50 miles of Gangneung City, one of the nearest cities to the Military Demarcation Zone which marks the border between North and South Korea.
The Korean Central News Agency, the state-run media mouthpiece of the North Korean government, accused the United States and South Korea of staging a “nuclear bombing drill” with the flyover of the B-1B bombers. Although the B1 was first deployed in the 1970s as a high-altitude nuclear-capable bomber, following the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the Air Force downgraded the plane to a conventional weapons bomber.
The U.S. now relies on the B2 stealth bomber and the B-21 Raider, also a stealth aircraft, as the country’s primary means of delivering nuclear weapons from the air.
This week, the U.S. sent two of the Navy’s 19 aircraft carriers to the Sea of Japan, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan, where they will conduct battle exercises along with other U.S. warships, move certain to be taken as a “provocation” by North Korea.
The Hwasong SCUD missile launched by North Korea on Monday landed in the Sea of Japan, inside an area designated as Japan’s “exclusive economic zone,” bringing loud protests from the Japanese government.
“This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is highly problematic from the perspective of the safety of shipping and air traffic, and is a clear violation of United Nations security council resolutions,” Japan government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said in a statement to the press. “Japan absolutely cannot tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative actions. We have strongly protested to North Korea and condemn its actions in the strongest terms.”
Nonetheless, when Donald Trump posted his own response to the latest North Korea missile test on his Twitter account, he said that the missile test showed “disrespect” to China, making no mention of Japan, a close U.S. ally.
North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2017
The missile penetrating Japan’s exclusive economic zone followed a test in March of four missiles fired simultaneously, three of which landed near, though not inside, Japan’s EEZ.
The United States has also apparently been undertaking preparations for a war with North Korea, placing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense systems in South Korea; systems that, in theory, could help ward off a North Korea missile attack on the South.
In fact, the U.S. has been so zealous in building up THAAD defense systems in South Korea that the country’s president Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday that he had been taken by surprise when four new U.S. THAAD missile launchers were discovered in the country; placed there without authorization from the South Korean government. Moon ordered an investigation into how the launchers were brought into South Korea, calling the development “very shocking.”
Moon won South Korea’s presidential election earlier this month, promising to take a more moderate stance toward North Korea, including direct talks and even a possible presidential visit to the North.
[Featured Image By KRT/AP Images]