South Korean sources are reporting that three unmanned aerial vehicles have crashed upon their soil, apparently from North Korea, which has referred to the drones as “strike” platforms instead of reconnaissance. In May of last year, northern dictator Kim Jong-un’s propaganda website Uriminzokkiri referred to the new capacity of their army to forego the use of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and artillery in favor of the UAVs, which have a much further range. This escalation of aggression has come at a time when global politics are already strained, and the response from the United States has been precautionary.
North Korea specified that it would use “terrain features for cover” for their unmanned drones, which can fly between valleys at low altitude, and that they could hit Cheong Wa Dae near Mt. Bukak, a target that their ballistic missiles could not reach. Their website also marked the South Korean office of President Park Geun-hye around 25 miles from the demilitarized zone at the border, a destination that a UAV could reach in less than three minutes. Other boasts include the possibility of attacking southern Seoul and the Capital Defense Command near Mt. Kwanak.
Kim Jong-un apparently led these training drills, as reported by North Korea’s KCNA official news agency in March of last year. The show of force claimed by the propaganda was that an interceptor could strike a Tomahawk cruise missile, which by definition is a defensive gesture to prove that the US is a limited threat. This is following on the heels of reports on Sunday from Seoul that a North Korean fishing boat crossed into their waters on March 28. After ignoring repeated warnings to cross back over the maritime border, South Korea’s Navy captured the vessel and discovered that the fishing boat contained neither fish nor an adequate net for fishing.
Not coincidentally, almost a dozen North Korean patrol ships were waiting just beyond the sea border when the fishing boat crossed into southern territory. Though the three men were released after claims of engine failure, the General Staff of North Korea’s military told its people that their fishermen were beaten with iron sticks in attempts to rile anger against what it deems are “atrocities” committed by the South Korean Navy. The escalation of aggression from the north crosses a maritime border not recognized by their Communist government, as it was drawn unilaterally by the US after the Korean War ended in a cease-fire in 1953.
North Korea also fired around 500 shells into the Yellow Sea at the end of March, with about 100 of those landings in their rival’s territory. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff were quoted by the semiofficial news agency Yonhap as saying that they returned fire with about 300 shells into North Korean waters and dispatched fighter jets to the Northern Limit Line. Washington is reportedly working closely beside South Korea and Japan.
Though all of this is coming with Kim Jong-un’s brutal slayings of political rivals within his country, along with threats of upcoming nuclear tests after a recent mid-range ballistic missile launch, the limitations of North Korean external politics since the war has always been decided by China, something that has been kept quiet to such an extent as to banish most discussion of the Korean War from American schoolbooks in favor of foreign relations with the Chinese. The point of North Korea devoting most of their energy consumption towards nuclear technology was specifically to throw their weight around, but mutually assured destruction is likely enough to keep their leader’s fits of lunacy confined to childish tantrums against his own people, as he appears more like a preening rooster than a warlord.
Unfortunately, China has increased its military spending and is building submarines and enhancing missile development, as well as testing emerging technology capable of neutralizing US missiles. The escalation of aggression that should be closely considered is from a much larger threat, and if China keeps acting territorial the way they did by declaring an air defense identification zone around disputed islands in the East China Sea last year, it seems that yet another country might be testing the fortitude of the American President.
By Elijah Stephens
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