Far East on edge: SEAL Team Six to Korea; Japan navy’s profile highest since World War II

by WorldTribune Staff, March 13, 2017

In the wake of Pyongyang’s firing of four missiles into the Sea of Japan last week, the United States said it would deploy an attack drone to South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported on March 13, citing a Seoul military official.

In addition, the U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six will join the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises, along with the Army’s Rangers, Delta Force and Green Berets, a military official told Korean news service.

The Gray Eagle drone is equipped with Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.

“A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities,” the official said.

Tensions continues to build in Northeast Asia amid North Korea’s ongoing missile test provocations, South Korea’s impeachment of its president and China’s ongoing military buildup in the South China Sea.

Equipped with Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, the Gray Eagle drone is capable of striking military facilities in North Korea. It will be deployed to a U.S. military base in the southwestern town of Gunsan to strengthen strike capabilities against ground targets in the North, the official told Yonhap.

Also on March 13, South Korea’s air force said it had begun a week-long drill named “Soaring Eagle” that will gauge Seoul’s readiness against any possible threat from the Kim Jong-Un regime. About 50 air force assets, including F-15K and FA-50 fighters, and 500 personnel from 15 air force units, are part of the exercises, according to Yonhap.

On March 1, South Korean and U.S. troops kicked off a two-month exercise, Foal Eagle, involving ground, air and naval forces of the two allies. Pyongyang has long denounced the wargames as a rehearsal for invasion.

South Korea on March 10 ordered its military to be on high alert against North Korea’s possible provocation as the Constitutional Court ruled to uphold the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye.

“The Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered all servicemen to raise their monitoring and alertness against North Korea,” said a military official.

Meanwhile, Japan is sending its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War II, Reuters reported.

The Izumo helicopter carrier, commissioned only two years ago, will make stops in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka before joining the Malabar joint naval exercise with Indian and U.S. naval vessels in the Indian Ocean in July.

It will return to Japan in August, sources told Reuters.

“The aim is to test the capability of the Izumo by sending it out on an extended mission,” said one of the sources who have knowledge of the plan. “It will train with the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea,” he added, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

In Seoul, tens of thousands of people occupied a downtown boulevard on March 10 to celebrate Park’s ouster, while, in a nearby square, what was said to be a larger crowd of Park’s supporters vowed to resist what they called a “political assassination.”

Park  remained silent after the court’s decision. Some analysts saw defiance in her silence, saying that Park was perhaps hoping to use the growing anger of her followers to rebuild support.

“By being quiet, she’s making it loud and clear that she won’t accept the court’s ruling,” said Yul Shin, a professor at Seoul’s Myongji University.

Park left the Blue House Sunday for a private residence and released a statement: “I feel sorry that I could not finish the mandate given to me as president. “It will take time, but I believe the truth will be revealed.” Park said in her first public comments since her dismissal.

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