Reinforcing military cooperationThree U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups — the USS Ronald Reagan, USS Nimitz, USS Theodore Roosevelt and their accompanying warships — went into a two-day drill with the South Korea Navy on Monday in a show of force against North Korean nuclear and missile threat. The rare exercise is aimed to mount “maximum pressure” and send a strong message to Pyongyang not to provoke and test the strength of the combined forces.
Pyongyang refuses to negotiate to suspend its nuclear weapons development, not to mention denuclearization. It is believed to be concentrating on manufacturing nuclear weapons after sixth nuclear test in September. Once it is fully armed, it would likely threaten South Korea, Japan, and the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles.
While the air strike groups were in the area, the United States proposed training together with Japanese and South Korean forces. The Korean defense ministry said it did not have any plan to expand a joint exercise to include Japan and did not explain why it has turned down the offer. Sources believe that Seoul could not agree because it has promised to China not to do three things in return for Beijing ceasing complaints and economic and diplomatic retaliation for Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. antimissile system.
One of the three “promises” Seoul made to Beijing was not to stretch its military cooperation with the United States and Japan to a complete alliance. But military cooperation among the three against their common North Korean nuclear threats is different from a full military alliance. The three countries must be tight on the defense front as it is unsure where North Korean nuclear missiles will land. Also, Japan is pivotal in the expansion of U.S. strategic assets around the peninsula and backing U.S. troops. Seoul seems to mistake joint actions against North Korea for an alliance.
In August, Seoul also declined to expand sea drills with Japan to train against North Korean weapons of mass destruction attacks after the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise. We cannot ensure maximum deterrence in this way. We cannot afford the slightest loophole in deterrence against North Korean threat. Seoul must be fully cooperative in military training with the United States and Japan until the North Korean nuclear threat is removed.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 34