— Already Happened (@M3t4_tr0n) March 24, 2017
As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Washington’s “strategic patience” with North Korea has ended and “all options are on the table” to slow its nuclear ambitions, U.S. and South Korean forces were preparing for a range of military scenarios.
As many as 300,000 mainly South Korean and U.S. personnel are involved in military drills that will run until the end of April. These exercises have been a feature of life on the peninsula since the Korean War ended in a 1953. In recent years, they have become larger and more realistic.
Every U.S. president since at least Bill Clinton has confronted North Korea’s weapons program and been offered a range of potential military action to tackle them.
So far, none has been willing to strike – primarily because all the options are bad, particularly given the risk of North Korean retaliation that could turn the peninsula, and perhaps the wider region, into a bloodbath. At worst, violence on the peninsula could even drag the United States into war with China, just as it did in the original Korean War.
As Pyongyang moves forward with warhead and missile testing, however, many experts believe the likelihood of Washington finally taking such steps is gradually increasing.
President Donald Trump says will he will not allow Pyongyang to develop the ability to strike the United States with nuclear force. If he orders a limited strike on its facilities, however, North Korea’s nuclear progress may only slow temporarily – and such an operation could spark brutal North Korean retaliation. A broader effort to bring down the entire regime would be an enormous undertaking.
Small wonder, then, that the United States has preferred to stick with alternative techniques such as economic sanctions and cyber attacks to interfere with missile tests. The recent deployment of THAAD antiballistic missile batteries to South Korea and Japan should offer some protection, although no one knows how effective they would be against North Korean missiles.
If Washington did choose to go further, the most likely action would be sudden, hopefully overwhelming bombing raids on suspected North Korean missile and weapons facilities.
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