North Korean nuclear threat overshadows Seoul and Washington military exercises
Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - South Korea and the United States today began three-days of joint naval exercises, which experts deem a "show of force" against the Pyongyang regime. The maneuvers, involving a U.S. nuclear submarine, have been scheduled for some time, but come a few days after North Korea's announcement of a "third" nuclear test, against UN resolutions.
Washington and Seoul have promised "significant consequences" if the North's regime decides to carry out the test of an atomic underground explosion. The exercises are taking place off the Korean east coast and the naval maneuvers involve monitoring operations and underwater shots using blanks.
For Jung Seung-Jo, head of the South Korean Joint Committee responsible for the operations, the presence of a nuclear submarine - the USS San Francisco weighing 9800 tons - should serve "as a message to North Korea" and act as a deterrent.
The joint maneuvers between Seoul and Washington come at a time of tension in the area, with Pyongyang announcing its intention to conduct a new underground nuclear test, after the launch of long-range missile - a satellite according to the regime - in December. The North Korean government has ensured that it was a "scientific" mission, intended to put a satellite into orbit. For the international community, however, it violated the UN resolutions laid down after the nuclear tests of 2006 and of 2009.
Recent images taken from space have confirmed abnormal activity in the Punggye-ri nuclear site in the north-eastern part of North Korea. The regime is apparently "covering" the entrance to a tunnel, to block external monitoring. It's purpose thus remains that of conducting an "high level" experiment despite pressure from the West and the diplomatic work of China, Pyongyang's main ally. Meanwhile, yesterday, the leader Kim Jong-un led a meeting between the leaders of the army, intended to mark an "absolute turning point" in military power. In this context, the "Marshall" delivered a speech deemed "historic" by state media, but the contents are unknown. This, too, according to experts, is a signal indicating the imminent North Korean nuclear test.