The uneasy peace the US, North Korea, and South Korea observed over the course of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics doesn’t look built to last, as military exercises will begin shortly after the games.
Although the US and South Korea postponed joint military exercises during the Olympics, the drills wil continue “as planned” after the games conclude, the US Forces Korea told NK News on Feb. 20, 2018. The officials declined to comment on exactly when the drills would take place, but said they’d provide an update in late March or April 2018.
The US and South Korea usually hold three major military exercises each year, and they all focus on combatting North Korea while serving as a major irritant in the trilateral relations.
North Korea has said the military drills “can never be compatible” with talks between the North and South, but the US has made it clear that it wants denuclearization of the Koreas above all, and will achieve the goal diplomatically or militarily.
North Korea has a history of responding with provocations of their own and likely won’t suffer the military drills in silence. While North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs have advanced, they have not reached completion.
North Korea still needs to test a missile fired at range and to demonstrate it can build a warhead that can survive the journeys. Media from Pyongyang has previously suggested it might fire missiles at the US military in Guam or detonate a nuclear missile over the Pacific ocean to prove its missile-building prowess.
But even as the countries return to old tricks and what often looks like a spiral of escalation, there’s reason to think it could be different this time around.
Reports from inside and around North Korea indicate the international sanctions campaign pushed by President Donald Trump seems to be working. With less money coming in and broad global support for isolating Pyongyang, the US may see North Korea continue to reach out to the South.