US Trying to Deliberately ‘Provoke’ North Korea, says Lavrov
It was back in August that the US staged a massive 10-day war war games exercise on the Korean peninsula. Involving some 75,000 US and South Korean troops, the exercise, dubbed “Ulchi-Freedom Guardian,” saw forces deployed on land, sea, and in the air–a massive display of military power denounced by the North Koreans as a “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war”…and it was also around this time that the DPRK threatened to attack Guam.
Now here we are three months later, and the US is about to do it all again. An exercise called “Vigilance Ace” is scheduled to run December 4-8, and according to Sputnik it will involve 230 war planes, including F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The “realistic” combat exercise is tailored to “enhance interoperability between US and Republic of Korea forces and crease the combat effectiveness of both nations,” the Seventh US Air Force, which operates out of South Korea, said in a Friday statement.
All this comes just 10 days after reports emerged of three US aircraft carrier groups taking positions in waters around the Korean peninsula in what North Korea’s UN ambassador described as a “strike posture.”
As in the previous two incidents–the Ulchi-Freedom exercise in August and the carrier deployments earlier this month–the North Koreans are again speaking out in protest, calling the upcoming Vigilance Ace games a “serious provocation.”
But perhaps the most arresting, eye-brow-raising remarks of all have come from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who suggested that the US is intentionally trying to provoke the North Koreans.
“We are alarmed that in the last two months when North Korea conducted no tests or rocket launches, it seemed that Washington was not happy about that, and tried to do things that would irritate and provoke Pyongyang,” Lavrov said.
He has a good point. It has been approximately 70 days since North Korea’s last missile test. Why the need for a massive military exercise now?
Lavrov also suggested that the confrontation with North Korea is a pretext, and that the real objective is the placement of US missiles on Russia’s doorstep. He is almost certainly correct in this, but of course it is extremely rare for a high-ranking Russian official to speak this candidly.
“We are expressing deep concern, with facts to back it up, that Japan, along with South Korea, is becoming a territory for the deployment of elements of the US global missile defence system which is being rolled out in that region under the pretext of the North Korea threat,” Lavrov said.
“We have no problems directly with Japan, we do not see risks there. We see risks because of the proliferation of a global US missile defence system on the territory of countries that neighbour Russia, including Japan,” he added.
Lavrov made the remarks during a visit to Moscow by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
Russia and China have proposed an agreement calling for an end to US war games on the Korean peninsula in exchange for a halt in missile testing by the North. The proposal has been rejected by the US and South Korea.