In spite of anger and criticism from powerful China, the US appears to be working toward increased intimidation of North Korea. Operation “Keen Sword”, although planned before the shelling by North Korea of Yeonpyeong Island, changes the stratagems involving the United States, North Korea, Japan, and the rest of the world.
The exercises are a celebration of the 50 year alliance between the US and Japan. 50,000 US troops are currently stationed in Japan. The Keen Sword exercises, on and over the Sea of Japan, have a participation, with the combined force of Japanese and American military, of an estimated 44,000 to 50,000 troops. Forty Japanese warships, twenty US warships, and a US supercarrier, are involved. Hundreds of aircraft, including US F-16s and Japanese F-15s, will take part. South Korea, meanwhile, is test firing artillery from 29 locations, including the recently battered Yeonpyeong Island. Naoto Kan, Japan’s Prime Minister has affirmed that Japan, although a declared pacifist among nations, will, if necessary, back action with the United States and South Korea against North Korea to counter North Korea’s “reckless and outrageous acts”.
The military drills involving the US and South Korea have just ended; following remarks from China, and from North Korea, increased care was implemented to assure that the firing of artillery was not in the direction of North Korea.
China, closest neighbor to North Korea, and a nation far more involved in matters economic than military, and a potential place of refuge for those hoping to escape violence in the Koreas, has steadfastly argued for moderation and stability. China is strongly opposed to any escalation of advanced hostility involving North Korea. China goes on to admonish those placing foreign navies off Chinese shores. China’s Foreign Minister, spokeswoman Jiang Yu, has condemned the exercises involving South Korea and now, Japan. China states that under current conditions all parties should work toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, “not the opposite.” Beijing calls for communication with Pyongyang, saying it is better to negotiate, than to “brandish weapons”. Stars and Stripes, the US military’s independent news source, reminds service-oriented readers that the US/Japanese drills were scheduled before the attack on Yeonpyeong Island, and adds that the drills will send a clear message to the North Korean government.
United States Secretary of State Clinton calls North Korea an immediate threat to South Korea, to Japan, and to the surrounding region.