Pohang, South Korea
North Korea has built a ballistic missile arsenal on the stated premise that it must deter an attack on it by US and South Korean forces.
Washington and Seoul have demonstrated their firepower through an increasing number of drills, all of which the two allies say are defensive in nature.
But on Wednesday morning they deployed thousands of troops and high-end weaponry to practice an amphibious invasion, a maneuver offensive in its nature and designed to seize territory, not defend it.
The commander of the 2,200 US Marines involved in Exercise Ssang Yong in Pohang on South Korea’s south coast defended what happened as unprovoking.
“I don’t think we’re doing anything different or strange,” said Col. Samuel Meyer, commander of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The exercise showcased the integrated firepower of US and South Korean forces.
Seoul’s marines first came ashore in waves of 23-ton amphibious assault vehicles, their tracks leaving foot-deep cracks in the Pohang sands.
As the South Korean Marines moved to a tree line beyond the beach, giant US Navy hovercraft known as LCACs followed, spewing out eight-wheeled amphibious vehicles with nicknames like “Rooster,” “Cerberus,” and “Ghost” stenciled on their sides .
In the sky above were attack helicopters, Osprey transports and F-35B stealth fighters, 10 of which were embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island and lurked 30 miles offshore.
“This is the 70th anniversary of this exercise. This is not new,” Meyer said, dismissing Pyongyang’s claims that Washington and Seoul are being provocative and forcing North Korea to build its nuclear deterrent program.
“It’s routine. We’re just getting back to routine based on what we’ve seen and experienced,” the US Marines colonel said.
But in 2023, little seems to be routine on the Korean peninsula or in further east Asia.
As Meyer spoke to reporters Tuesday aboard the 45,000-ton USS Makin Island, essentially a baby aircraft carrier, an actual 98,000-ton US Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, was conducting its own operations off the peninsula.
Closer to Pohang Beach, at least six South Korean Navy ships were seen in support, sending troops ashore for Exercise Ssang Yong.
Meanwhile, North Korean state media released images of leader Kim Jong Un allegedly inspecting nuclear weapons and urged his forces to use them “anytime, anywhere.”
To the north, Russia, a North Korean ally, fired cruise missiles at a target in the waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula.
And a Russian intelligence ship is keeping an eye on Makin Island and the rehearsal for Wednesday’s exercise, which is just 15 miles from Makin Island, the ship’s commander, Navy Capt. Tony Chavez, said.
The Russian ship did exactly what Chinese naval ships did when Makin Island and the ships deployed with it – the amphibious dock landings USS Anchorage and USS John P. Murtha – did when the US warships were in the South China Sea before heading to Korea came , tracking their every move from 12 to 15 miles away, Chavez said.
Exercise Ssang Yong had not been held for five years, first because of a diplomatic hiatus and then because of the Covid pandemic.
But for the past year, Pyongyang has been testing ballistic missiles at record speeds while Kim Jong Un has practiced nuclear strikes on southern targets. With Kim’s belligerence, the US and South Korea have increased their willingness to respond to any North Korean aggression.
Tensions have been running high on the Korean peninsula since talks between then-US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to reach an agreement after three meetings between the two, the last in 2019.
Since then, Kim has ramped up its ballistic missile program, testing the weapons more than three times a month on average over the past year.
Tests have continued this year, with Pyongyang last testing nuclear-capable cruise missiles and a nuclear-capable underwater drone last week.
But the growing military activity hasn’t just happened north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.
The Korean Peninsula has been a hotbed of military activity for much of this year, and particularly last month, as US and South Korean forces conducted Operation Freedom Shield, the largest military exercise between the two allies since 2018, during which military displays were cut to encourage Kim to reverse the North’s nuclear program.
Looking back at the Korean War can provide a glimpse of why amphibious landings raised temperatures in Pyongyang so much.
North Korea lost its advantage in this war due to a.
The Battle of Incheon in 1950 is considered one of the most successful amphibious assaults in military history
In that skirmish, US and allied warships bombarded the North Korean-held port of Incheon for two days before US Marines stormed ashore on three beaches 110 miles behind North Korean lines to drive Pyongyang’s troops out of the South Korean capital Seoul, March 31 miles (50 km) west.
The beachhead was quickly established, and less than two weeks later, with the help of South Korean and other US forces attacking from the south, Seoul was back in Allied hands.
This American-South Korean cooperation eventually led to the military ties seen in the peninsula today.
Key US military assets are now scattered throughout South Korea. Among them is the US Army’s Camp Humphreys, the largest US military facility outside the United States with a population of more than 36,000 US soldiers, civilian workers, contractors and family members.
Last October, North Korea exercised procedures that could launch a tactical nuclear strike against “the enemy’s key military command facilities,” according to North Korean state media.
And those kinds of threats are a key reason drills like Ssang Yong are necessary, US commanders say. The American and South Korean militaries must be a cohesive entity.
“We have to be prepared for all kinds of changes … building that strong relationship and alliance for all the changes that we can’t control,” Meyer said.
Source : www.cnn.com