US Sends Attack Drones to South Korea, Displays Aircraft Carrier Firepower

In the wake of Pyongyang's firing of four missiles into the Sea of Japan last week, the United States said it would deploy an attack drone to South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported on March 13, citing a Seoul military official.

South Korea and the United States kicked off their military exercises on March 1 amid heightened tensions following the North's launch of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile in February.

However, North Korea has warned the U.S. of "merciless" attacks if an aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson infringes on its sovereignty or dignity.

Pyongyang is seeking to conduct another nuclear test around South Korea's presidential election this year, Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to Seoul last year, told lawmakers in December.

On March 7, the USA deployed the "first elements" of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to South Korea, despite angry opposition from China. However, he said that such a deployment is not unique to South Korea alone.

As expected North Korea's ICBMs are strongly condemned by the UN Security Council along Japan, South Korea and US.

Just as North Korea tested Barack Obama administration after he took office by undertaking missile and nuclear tests in 2009, Kim tested the new administration in Washington for a second time by simultaneously launching four ballistic missiles, which Pyongyong claims can be mounted with nuclear warheads. Indeed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is already pushing ahead with THAAD deployment in Japan.

There's some urgency in quickly working with the regional powers on calibrating the reaction to North Korea's provocations, especially given its nuclear aspirations and capabilities. The drones have previously been deployed to various conflict zones in Afghanistan and Iraq to conduct reconnaissance or precision-strike missions on enemy command posts and it is widely believed that they will be used for similar purposes in drills against North Korea.

South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye, was ousted by South Korea's constitutional court on March 10.

In a statement, Costa Cruises said it would "remove calls to South Korean ports for our upcoming cruises homeported out of China, replacing them with cruising at sea or calls to destinations in Japan".

One pastor was arrested on February 18 with his wife and two children at an airport in the northeastern Chinese city of Qingdao prior to a flight to South Korea, according to the group "Justice for North Korea".

North Korea claimed that the most recent drill was only aimed at striking "the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan".

The rise in the number of USA forces in the drills comes after North Korea's Kim, in a New Year's speech, said that the country was in the "final stage" of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile, the first of its kind.

Spawning off of last week's retaliation against Lotte Group for providing land for the THAAD battery, Korean enterprises in China are facing an increasingly hostile business environment.

During the South Korea leg of the trip, Tillerson will hold talks with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Joint military exercises in South Korea are bigger in 2017 than in previous years, a senior South Korean government official said Monday.

Tillerson's task in Beijing will also presumably include smoothing the way for a potential meeting in Florida between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping as soon as April.



Other news