Asia Minute: U.S.-South Korean Military Exercises on Track

Jul 29, 2019

North Korean government media say last week’s launch of two short-range missiles was a warning to South Korea not to proceed with military exercises next month. But those actions are on track to continue — while the launches have drawn different reactions in Seoul and Washington.

South Korea’s National Security Council expressed concern about last week’s North Korean missile launch – calling it “a new type of short-range ballistic missile.”

President Trump had a milder reaction, telling Fox News, “they haven’t really tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, which is something that lots test.” And later calling the missiles “very standard.”

In its own official media reports, North Korea took a sharper tone against South Korea than the United States, calling the test “a solemn warning to the South Korean military warmongers.”

North Korea wants South Korea’s military exercises with the United States cancelled. But another round is going ahead next month – relatively modest compared with previous drills. Foal Eagle was a regular springtime exercise that at its peak involved some 15,000 U.S. forces and nearly 300,000 South Korean troops.

Those were scaled back dramatically last year.

Next month’s joint exercise is called Dong Maeng, Korean for “alliance,” it’s smaller – much of it is computer simulation.

As for North Korea, the Hawaii-based head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command says he has no illusions.

Earlier this month, Admiral Phil Davidson told the Aspen Security Conference that, quote, “there is no doubt in my mind that North Korea is continuing to develop nuclear weapons and continuing to develop long-range ballistic missiles to fire them.”