Movies are an art medium where every frame can answer a question before it’s even asked. The clever use of symbols, juxtaposition or a turn of phrase can lead the audience down a rabbit hole of their own interpretation. In some movies, the symbols are more obvious, such as the little girl wearing a red coat in Schindler’s List who symbolizes innocence.
These hidden clues are easier to spot in dramas because we’re subconsciously expecting them. We’ve accepted they should be there. In a comedy, however, they’re easy to miss because we aren’t ready for depth. Jo Jo Rabbit is a comedy about a little boy who joins the Hitler youth in Berlin with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler. At face value, the movie pokes fun of Nazi Germany, but there are a few subtle details that offer a deeper look into life on the other side.
(Warning: spoilers ahead)
When Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) says, “It’s a great year to be a girl,” after saying she’s had 18 kids and would rate an award called The Mother’s Cross. At face value, it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke that there is a lot of cardiovascular value to a woman’s place aiding the Reich. Hitler really did approve and encourage the procreation of more soldiers for the party. Although she isn’t wearing it in the scene, she would have rated the highest tier of the award after her seventh child.
Hitler doesn’t smoke
The real-life Hitler loathed smoking and wouldn’t allow it in his presence. Yet, in the movie, he offers Jojo cigarettes. During the 1940s, if you were old enough to work, you were old enough to smoke. Since Jojo never met Hitler in real life, he would never have known this. The offer highlights how little the main character knows about the real dictator.
Captain K may have been a spy
At the start of the movie, Captain Klenzendorf says he lost an easily winnable battle due to the incompetence of the Nazi High Command. In reality, the micromanagement by general officers and Hitler himself did play a decisive role in losing the war. Yet, when you hear Captain K state how much he loathed their meddling, and now he has to train the next generation of soldiers, he says he’s using actual grenades.
It is suspicious that when one does blow up it fails to kill Jojo at point blank range. Are they practice grenades and he’s just saying they’re real? Was Jojo just lucky? Could Captain K have sabotaged his own mission? Is he attempting to sabotage training? It’s a stretch if that were the only piece of evidence.
The isolated incident could’ve just been a coincidence, but when the Gestapo raid Jojo’s home, the Captain was on his way to warn him. That scene confirms he is part of the resistance. How long was he part of the resistance? It’s plausible that he was a member from the start.
Real-life espionage has inspired other Hollywood films like Valkyrie and Inglorious Bastards where there is an active resistance against the Reich. So, although many people followed Hitler, there was also a handful who went against the grain.
Also known as the inverted pink triangle, the Rosa-Winkel found on gay concentration camp uniforms. When throwing “undesirables” into the camps, the Nazis also had a system of identifying which undesirable group they belonged to. When Captain K makes his last stand and reveals his true colors (literally), he and his partner both have them on their uniforms. The film hints at their sexual orientation and then confirms it without distracting the audience during his last stand. He no longer has to hide that important part of his life. To put it simply: pride.
The Army is now performing concept modeling and early design work for a new mobile, lethal, high-tech future lightweight tank platform able to detect and destroy a wider range of targets from farther distances, cross bridges, incinerate drones with lasers and destroy incoming enemy artillery fire – all for the 2030s and beyond.
The new vehicle, now emerging purely in the concept phase, is based upon the reality that the current M1A2 SEP Abrams main battle tank can only be upgraded to a certain limited extent, senior Army officials explained.
The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is now immersed in the development of design concepts for various super high-tech tank platforms, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Bassett emphasized the extensive conceptual work, simulation and design modeling will be needed before there is any opportunity to “bend metal” and produce a new tank.
You don’t wanna rumble with this. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
“We’ve used concept modeling. What are the limits of what you can do? What does a built from the ground up vehicle look like? We are assuming, if we are going to evolve it, it is because there is something we can’t do in the current vehicle,” Basset explained.
The new tank will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to being testing in 2021, will also include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links and laser warning receivers.
However, although Army developers often maintain that while the latest, upgraded high-tech v4 Abrams is much more advanced than the first Abrams tanks produced decades ago, there are limits to how much the existing Abrams platform can be upgraded.
A lighter weight, more high-tech tank will allow for greater mobility in the future, including an ability to deploy more quickly, handle extremely rigorous terrain, integrate new weapons, cross bridges inaccessible to current Abrams tanks and maximize on-board networking along with new size-weight-and-power configurations.
Although initial requirements for the future tank have yet to emerge, Bassett explained that the next-generation platform will use advanced sensors and light-weight composite armor materials able to achieve equal or greater protection at much lighter weights.
“We will build in side and underbody protection from the ground up,” Bassett said.
Bassett said certain immediate changes and manufacturing techniques could easily save at least 20-percent of the weight of a current 72-ton Abrams.
The idea is to engineer a tank that is not only much more advanced than the Abrams in terms of sensors, networking technology, force tracking systems, an ability to control nearby drones and vastly increased fire-power – but to build a vehicle with open-architecture such that it can quickly accommodate new technologies as they emerge.
For instance, Bassett pointed out that the Abrams was first fielded with a 105mm cannon – yet built with a mind to potential future upgrades such that it could be configured to fire a 120mm gun.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Smith explained how, for example, Humvees were not built for the growth necessary to respond to the fast-emerging and deadly threat of roadside bombs in Iraq.
The new tank will be specifically engineered with additional space for automotive systems, people and ammunition. As computer algorithms rapidly advance to allow for greater levels of autonomy, the Abrams tank will be able to control nearby drones using its own on-board command and control networking, service developers said.
Unmanned “wing-man” type drones could fortify attacking ground forces by firing weapons, testing enemy defenses, carrying suppliers or performing forward reconnaissance and reconnaissance missions while manned-crews remained back at safer distances.
Bassett, and developers with General Dynamics Land Systems, specifically said that this kind of autonomy was already being worked on for current and future tanks.
Active protection systems are another instance of emerging technologies which will go on the latest state-of-the-art Abrams tanks and also quite likely be used for the new tank. Using computer algorithms, fire control technology, sensors and an interceptor of some kind, Active Protection Systems are engineered to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire in a matter of milliseconds. The Army is currently fast-tracking an effort to explore a number of different APS systems for the Abrams. General Dynamics Land Systems is, as part of the effort, using its own innovation to engineer an APS system which is not a “bolt-on” type of applique but something integrated more fully into the tank itself, company developers have told Scout Warrior.
The use of space in the new vehicle, drawing upon a better allocation of size-weight-and-electrical power will enable the new tank to accommodate better weapons, be more fuel efficient and provide greater protection to the crew.
“If you have less volume in the power train, you can get down to something with less transportability challenges,” he said. “If you add additional space to the vehicle, you can take out target sets at greater distances.”
While advanced Abrams tanks will be using a mobile Auxiliary Power Unit to bring more on-board electrical power to the platform for increased targeting, command-and-control technologies and weapons support, mobile power is needed to sustain future systems such as laser weapons.
The Army cancelled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, some of the innovations, technologies and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for the new tank. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute, uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Light Weight 120mm Cannon
The new tank may quite likely use a futuristic, lightweight 120mm cannon first developed years ago for the Army’s now-cancelled Future Combat Systems, or FCS; FCS worked on a series of “leap-ahead” technologies which, in many instances, continue to inform current Army modernization efforts.
The FCS program developed next-generation sensors, networking, robots and a series of mobile, high-tech 27-ton Manned-Ground Vehicles, or MGVs.
The MGVs included a Non-Line-of-Sight artillery variant, Reconnaissance and Surveillance, Infantry, Medical and Command-and-Control variants, among others. One of the key vehicles in this planned future fleet was the Mounted Combat System, or MCS.
The overall MGV effort was cancelled by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009 because Gates felt that the 27-ton common chassis was not sufficiently survivable enough in a modern IED-filled threat environment.
Although the MGVs were engineered with a so-called “survivability onion” of networked sensors and active protection systems to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire at great distances, many critics of FCS felt that the vehicles were not sufficient to withstand a wide range of enemy attacks should incoming fire penetrate sensors or hit targets in the event that the sensor malfunctioned or were jammed.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds. The lightweight weapon being developed for the MCS was two-tons, roughly one-half the weight of the existing Abrams 120mm cannon.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
In fact, the Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy”
Bassett said the potential re-emergence of the XM360 is indicative of the value of prototyping and building subsystem technologies.
The MCS was test-fired at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., in 2009. The platform used an aluminum turret and three-man crew using an automatic loading system. Also, the MCS was engineered to fire 120mm rounds up to 10 kilometers, what’s called Beyond-Line-of-Sight using advanced fire control and targeting sensors, General Dynamics developers explained at the time.
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
Smith added that a lighter-weight, more mobile and lethal tank platform will be necessary to adjust to a fast-changing modern threat environment including attacking RPGs, Anti-Tank-Guided Missiles and armor-piercing enemy tank rounds. He explained that increased speed can be used as a survivability combat-enhancing tactic, adding that there are likely to be continued urban threats in the future as more populations migrates into cities.
“Never forget what it is you are trying to use it for,” Smith said.
While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings on Tuesday.
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.
Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted a record high of $261.37 in early trading on Tuesday. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.
And all of this is great news for the troubled fifth-generation stealth fighter jet.
“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.
The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack of all trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all while using the most advanced available stealth capabilities.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
As it stands now the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 of these supersonic warplanes.
According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.
The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.
In May 2014 then-Tech Sgt. Kristopher Parker, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, was out of comms in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents.
According to an Air Force release, the firefight started when Parker and other American forces who had been sent to clear an improvised explosive device factory came across the insurgents holed up in a cave.
Parker and his fellow troops faced RPGs, small-arms fire, and even hand-thrown IEDs during the 20-hour engagement with the enemy.
Despite all that incoming, Parker was doing a lot of multitasking. He swept the area for IEDs. He cleared routes. He pulled wounded personnel out of the line of fire. He marked cache locations.
“Kris saved the lives of so many Soldiers, Marines and Airmen,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Global Strike Command, said in the release. “He put their lives first and took care of them and that is so honorable.”
When the fight was done, 18 insurgents were dead. Parker had also cleared and destroyed over 200 pounds’ worth of homemade explosives.
On March 17, Parker, now a retired Master Sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during that 20 hour battle. The award is the third highest that can be presented for valor in combat.
“We are so lucky to be here with this true hero,” Rand said. “A hero who has deployed several times in harm’s way. A hero that saved lives. I’m so humbled and appreciative of his incredible service. It’s a great time to be an Airman.”
In 1997, director Ridley Scott decided to do something no other filmmaker has ever done — send a female into SEAL training and record it.
After a grueling training process, she and her class were diverted to support a satellite recovery mission. They got into a big firefight with the bad guys and she helped save the master chief who gave her shit for weeks.
The class graduated and moved on to become operational, but did you ever wonder what happened to them after that?
Well, we used our (fictional) WATM private investigators to look for the SEALs’ silver screen whereabouts, and here’s what they found.
After he was wounded and saved by Lt. O’Neill in a cinematic finale, the master chief retired from the SEAL community and moved to a small town with his family — opening up a restaurant.
But his peaceful life didn’t last too long. He became a local hero when he f*cked up two mob guys who caused an excessive amount of commotion in his town.
After all the craziness ended, he got covered in tattoos, received a phone call from his Russian mob family and returned home to the motherland. He’s been there ever since.
Life after the SEAL teams got pretty complication for this sailor; he developed a split personality disorder but picked up a knack for carpentry.
Unfortunately, his wood-working career didn’t last very long after he got hated on by a bunch of non-believers.
He managed to rediscover himself and teamed up with a wealthy computer programmer saving lives through AI surveillance that identifies suffering civilians involved with impending crimes.
No one saw that career change coming.
This Navy SEAL did a few combat deployments but decided not to make it a career. He was recruited to play professional basketball for the Knights and ended up adopting one of his 14 -year-old orphan teammates who wore some raggedy-ass Michael Jordan shoes.
In the offseason, he plays wide-receiver for Boston Rebels football team and even won a Super Bowl. Good for him.
After she helped defeat some Syrian bad guys and saved her master chief in battle, Jordan O’Neill eventually earned her SEAL trident — but never went operational.
The Navy found out she had a secret past that slipped through multiple security background checks. Before the Navy, Jordan O’Neill worked as a detective for a billionaire only known as “Charlie,” working as one of his angels. Frustrated, she departed the Navy and went rogue, working to take down the other angels she suspected of ruining her career.
After the angels thwarted her quest to bring them down, she changed her name to Kate Jones and used her brilliant manipulation tactics to sell high priced items in a suburban neighborhood — with her fake family.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said the U.S. Air Force needs to be ready to engage in space combat.
“Other nations are preparing to use space as a battlefield, a big battlefield, and we’d better be ready to fight there,” Welsh said last week in Arlington, Virginia. “We don’t want to fight there but we better be ready for it because other people clearly are posturing themselves to be able to do that.”
Welsh, who will be retiring on July 1 after just over 40 years of service, made his comments Thursday morning in Arlington, Virginia, at an Air Force Association breakfast.
His comment about space as a battlefield came in the context of what the U.S. needs to be able to do to win future fights.
One of the absolutes in modern warfare, he said, is firepower – “more of it, more quickly and more precisely.” And the Air Force needs to have that not only in the air domain but in cyber and space domains.
Welsh credited Air Force Space Command with taking the lead “in at least thinking about the space domain as a warfighting domain.”
But Space Command has been thinking about space warfare for quite some time.
In the 1990s, Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy, then head of Space Command, told lawmakers that space would become a battleground, according to Air Force Maj. William L. Spacy II, who quoted Ashy in “Does the United States Need Space-Based Weapons?”
“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue … but — absolutely — we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space,” Ashy said.
A 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulates that space is to be used for peaceful purposes. Just what that means has never been defined, though the 1945 U.N. Charter defined “peaceful purposes” to include the inherent right of self-defense, Spacy wrote.
That freed up space-pioneering countries including the Soviet Union and the U.S. to place military communications and early-warning system satellites into space. But both also went farther than that, developing and testing – but never deploying – anti-satellite weapons before and after the 1967 treaty was adopted.
But in recent years the idea of space engagements has grown more real as both China and the U.S. successfully demonstrated the capability to take out a satellite with a weapon.
China destroyed one of its own weather satellites with an anti-satellite weapon in 2007. A year later the U.S. took down one of its own damaged satellites using a SM-3 missile fired from the USS Lake Erie.
These days it’s hard to think of a veteran who could have served from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s happened, of course.
But imagine a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War fighting in the Civil War. That’s a span of more than 60 years — much longer than the 24 years that separated the beginning of WWII and the Vietnam War. Then again, during the 20th century, pivotal battles weren’t literally in our front yard.
An average 69-year-old might be happy to ride out his golden years from a rocking chair.
See, Burns already lived twice as long as the average American of the time and was ready to do more for his country. But Gettysburg was much further north than the Confederates could ever attack – or so he thought.
Burns was considered “eccentric” by the rest of the town. That’s what happens when you’re fighting wars for longer than most people at the time spent in school.
When Confederate Gen. Jubal Early captured the town, Burns was the constable and was jailed for trying to interfere with Confederate military operations. When the Confederates were pushed out of Gettysburg by the Union, Burns began arresting Confederate stragglers for treason.
His contributions to the Union didn’t end there.
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Burns watched as the Battle of Gettysburg began to unfold near his home. Like a true American hero, he picked up his rifle – a flintlock musket, which required the use of a powder horn – and calmly walked over to the battle to see how he could help.
He “borrowed” a more modern musket (now a long-standing Army tradition) from a wounded Union soldier, picked up some cartridges, then walked over to the commander of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and asked to join the regiment.
Herbst Woods was the site of the first Confederate offensive of the battle. Burns, sharpshooting for the Iron Brigade, helped repel this offensive as part of a surprise counterattack.
John Burns was mocked by other troops for showing up to fight with his antiquated weapon and “swallowtail coat with brass buttons, yellow vest, and tall hat.” But when the bullets started to fly, he calmly took cover behind a tree and started to shoot back with his modern rifle.
He also fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and then moved to support the 24th Michigan. He was wounded in the arm, legs, and chest and was left on the field when the Union forces had to fall back.
He ditched his rifle and buried his ammo and then passed out from blood loss. He tried to convince the Rebels he was an old man looking to find help for his wife, but accounts of how well that story worked vary. Anyone fighting in an army outside of a uniform could be executed, but the ruse must have worked on some level–he survived his wounds and lived for another 9 years.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War. The Confederates would spend the rest of the war – two years – on the defensive.
“So raged the battle. You know the rest. How the rebels, beaten and backward pressed, Broke at the final charge and ran. At which John Burns — a practical man — Shouldered his rifle, unbent his brows, And then went back to his bees and cows.”
Burns became a national hero after the battle. When President Lincoln stopped in the Pennsylvania town to deliver the Gettysburg Address, he asked to speak with Burns and met the veteran at his home.
He was photographed – a big deal at the time – and a poem was written about his life. A statue of Burns was erected at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1903, where it stands today.
The base reads “My thanks are specially due to a citizen of Gettysburg named John Burns who although over seventy years of age shouldered his musket and offered his services to Colonel Wister One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Colonel Wister advised him to fight in the woods as there was more shelter there but he preferred to join our line of skirmishers in the open fields when the troops retired he fought with the Iron Brigade. He was wounded in three places. – Gettysburg report of Maj.-Gen. Doubleday.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is well known for having delivered some controversial quotes in the past, and he uttered yet another during a speech last week to sailors at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.
During a short speech on August 9 followed by a question-and-answer period, Mattis thanked the sailors of the USS Kentucky for being in the Navy, saying they’d never regret that service.
“That means you’re not some p–y sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be laying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”
The Navy reversed its policy of only allowing males to serve aboard submarines in 2010, according to the US Naval Institute. A spokesman for Submarine Group 9 confirmed the USS Kentucky does not currently have any female sailors assigned to it.
Mattis went on to say that he wished he were young enough to go out to sea with the Kentucky’s crew, though the retired general joked, “there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean?”
On May 19, 1848, Mexico ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus ending the Mexican-American War.
The war began over territory disputes in what was then the Republic of Texas, Nuevo Mexico, and Alta California. After two years of fighting, Mexico surrendered and peace talks began.
As part of the treaty, the United States paid Mexico $15 million in exchange for all or parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Texas. Per the terms of the agreement, the Mexican government ceded fifty-five percent of its territory and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary with the United States.
Adjusting for inflation, that’s almost a third of the continental United States for about what La La Land earned at the box office. Though it did indeed expand U.S. territories, it reignited the tension over free- and slave-holding states and contributed to the cause of the Civil War just twelve years later.
The launch, the fourth in a matter of only a few days, followed statements by President Donald Trump claiming that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is starting to respect the US and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserting that North Korea has shown “restraint” by halting its missile tests. America’s lead diplomat even suggested that there might be a path to dialogue.
Evidence indicates that Trump and Tillerson may have misread North Korea’s behavior. “This is not the action of a country that is interested in showing restraint or in creating a glide-path to dialogue, at least not on our terms,” James Schoff, an East Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Washington Post.
Not only is North Korea apparently frustrated with the activities of the US and its allies, but it may also be determined to set a precedent for new missile testing.
The US and South Korea began the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises Aug. 21. The North perceives joint military exercises as a precursor to an armed invasion of North Korean territory.
“This is a clear indication of the attempt to mount a preemptive attack on the North,” a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, argued Aug. 27. North Korea is particularly concerned with the preemptive strike elements of Operation Plan 5015, which the North claims is a key part of this year’s exercises.
“The warmongers at home and abroad are working hard to master and perfect the performance procedures and the actual maneuverability of the “beheading operation” and “secret operation” under OPLAN 5015,” the North Korean state media report explained.
“The DPRK will continue to strengthen its defensive capability with nuclear force, as long as US … does not stop military drills on the doorstep of the DPRK,” North Korean ambassador to the UN Han Tae Song explained Aug. 29. “US pressure and provocative acts only justify the DPRK’s measure to strengthen its self-defense capabilities.”
North Korea is also irritated with the regular high-level meetings between senior US military officials and their South Korean counterparts.
“It is a very ill-boding development that timed to coincide with the exercises, the US Pacific Command chief, the US Strategic Command head, the Missile Defense Agency director, and other US high-ranking military officers flew into South Korea to hold confabs on the DPRK,” North Korean state media explained.
Furthermore, the North is aware of allied efforts to boost their offensive and defensive capabilities in response to the growing North Korean threat. South Korea conducted its own missile tests last week, testing weaponry designed to penetrate North Korea’s underground and hardened facilities, and Japan just deployed a collection of new missile interceptors.
There is also a strong possibility, as this has long been a strategic objective, that North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the US and its allies in Asia.
The latest missile launch may also clear the way for a more realistic weapons testing program, helping North Korea develop combat-capable missiles to boost its deterrence capabilities.
“There is a technical imperative for conducting this test,” Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told WaPo. “They want to be able to look at reentry dynamics and how it performs on a more normal trajectory.” North Korea will need to ultimately move ships into the area to get telemetry data, but this is a first step.
If the consequences for North Korea’s actions are limited, Pyongyang may assume that the benefits are worth the risks and conduct additional tests of this nature in the future, possibly for its new intercontinental ballistic missile.
“In a way, it’s kind of a trial balloon,” Elleman said. “If we overfly Japan, what happens? If the blowback isn’t too significant, they will feel more comfortable with launching a Hwasong-14 to a good distance to validate its performance on a normal trajectory.”
North Korea typically tests its missiles by lofting them, and then analysts calculate their theoretical range were the missiles to be fired along a normal trajectory. North Korea needs more reliable data if it intends to field a viable nuclear deterrent. When North Korea threatened to fire missiles into waters around Guam earlier this month, some observers suspected that North Korea might be trying to set a precedent for launches over Japan.
“This sets a new dangerous precedent of overflying Japan and launching into the western Pacific,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, posted on Twitter after North Korea’s threats.
While the North may have deescalated earlier, it does not appear to have backed down. The country appears as committed to its strategic ambitions as ever.
On Tuesday, the US dispatched two US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in response to North Korea’s largest nuclear test.
The long-range supersonic strategic bombers were joined by Japanese F-2s for training to “enhance operational capabilities and the tactical skills of units.”
The bombers were then joined by South Korean F-15s and US F-16s for a low-level flight in the vicinity of Osan, South Korea. Upon completion of the bilateral flight, the B-1Bs returned to Andersen Air Force Base.
“These flights demonstrate the solidarity between South Korea, the United States, and Japan to defend against North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions,” US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris said in a statement.
“North Korea continues to blatantly violate its international obligations, threatening the region through an accelerating program of nuclear tests and unprecedented ballistic missile launches that no nation should tolerate. US joint military forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific are always ready to defend the American homeland. We stand resolutely with South Korea and Japan to honor our unshakable alliance commitments and to safeguard security and stability.”
Amid rising tensions between the US and China, a US ambassador visited Taiwan for the first time in 42 years. On Sunday, the US ambassador to Palau, John Hennessey-Niland, arrived on the self-governed island with a delegation from Palau. Although the ambassador was present as part of an official visit by the Palau government, it is significant — marking the first visit by such an official since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taipei during the Carter administration in 1979.
Palau is one of only 15 nations that officially recognize Taiwan as a country. China views the self-ruled democratic island as its own territory and has spoken for decades about one day “reunifying” Taipei with the government in Beijing.
Beijing spoke out against the visit, with the foreign ministry saying on Monday it opposed Hennessey-Niland’s trip.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei on Tuesday, Hennessey-Niland took the unusual step of referring to Taiwan as a country, reported Agence France-Press.
“I know that here in Taiwan people describe the relationship between the United States and Taiwan as real friends, real progress and I believe that description applies to the three countries — the United States, Taiwan and Palau,” he said.
While Washington has not formally recognized Taipei as a sovereign government, it has arguably been Taiwan’s most important unofficial ally and its leading arms supplier since 1979.
Additionally, Hennessey-Niland spoke strongly about China’s involvement in the region. Hennessey-Niland said American ambassadors have the responsibility to express their dissatisfaction with China for its economic and political threats against Taiwan’s allies. He also called on Washington to penalize Beijing for its “malicious behavior.”
Hennessey-Niland stated that the TAIPEI Act — which was signed into law by then President Donald Trump on March 26, 2020 — would make an important contribution to supporting diplomatic allies of Taiwan, such as Palau, noting that Taiwan is an important partner of the US, and together the US and Taiwan can do more to assist other Pacific island nations.
The significance of the visit is being acknowledged by the Taiwanese. Lin Ting-hui, deputy secretary-general of the Taiwanese Society of International Law, told reporters that the visit is “not trivial.”
Lin said it shows the US is “not shying away” from sending an ambassador to Taiwan. He said this demonstrates that American policy on Taiwan has changed to “a more positive orientation.” Lin suggested that the US is no longer limiting itself to the parameters of the Taiwan Relations Act.
“It no longer hides it as it did in the past,” Lin said. “Instead, it chooses to make it public.”