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War drums on the Korean peninsula

Map of Korean DMZ

DoD map of the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), and the areas around it in both the North and South. Click on map for a larger image.

The United States and South Korean militaries began their annual Key Resolve exercise today. Key Resolve was planned for the first time by the Republic of Korea, as part of the preparation for those forces to assume wartime operations control in Dec. 2015. The exercise involves about 10,000 ROK forces and about 3,500 from the U.S. military. Other allied nations, Denmark, United Kingdom, Australia, Colombia and Canada, also have forces participating. Units from the U.S. Navy and Air Force are also conducting exercises in the area. Key Resolve will end March 21.

Tensions on the peninsula have been mounting since the February nuclear test conducted by the North, their third. The United Nations increased sanctions on both the government and key official of North Korea late last week in response. The North has threatened a nuclear attack on the United States and appears to have carried through on its threat to cancel the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. Reuters is reporting that the North has cut off a Red Cross sponsored hotline between the two Koreas. The United Nations commander in Korea has stated that his forces intend to abide by the sixty year old agreement.

As of this writing, the U.S. Navy is badly positioned to provide support to American forces in Korea if war breaks out. There is no carrier battle group in the Pacific. The Bonhomme Richard and its two sister ships have the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked and took part in an exercise in Thailand late last month. The 31st MEU completed amphibious integration training on March 9.

Four Navy guided-missile destroyers arrived in the Republic of Korea on March 9. They will be conducting exercise Foal Eagle with the ROK Navy. Foal Eagle is scheduled to run through April.

The Korean Herald quotes officials in the North:

On Sunday, the North, which denounced the drills as a “rehearsal for a nuclear war of incursion,” warned its troops are waiting for an “ultimate order to charge in” on its hostile forces.

“All means for our style of precision, nuclear strikes also maintain their combat mobilization posture. When the sound of gunfire for the holy war of reunification is heard, the U.S. and South Korea would immediately turn into a sea of fire,” the Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a piece.

Staff Sgt. Arianna Ruiz and Staff Sgt. Franklin Walton secure a building of enemy threats during a counter surveillance scenario for an operation readiness exercise

Staff Sgt. Arianna Ruiz and Staff Sgt. Franklin Walton, 51st Security Forces members, secure a building of enemy threats during a counter surveillance scenario for an operation readiness exercise, Beverly Bulldog 13-02 at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Feb. 12, 2013.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sara Csurilla) Click on image for a larger view.

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