After defying UN bans and proceeding with nuclear tests earlier this month, the Norks are now threatening the US against performing its own joint military drills with South Korea. Pak Rim Su, a chief North Korean military delegate, issued a rare direct warning to Gen. James Thurman, according to the AP:
“You had better bear in mind that those igniting a war are destined to meet a miserable destruction,” KCNA [Korean Central News Agency] quoted Pak as saying in his message to Thurman.
South Korea and the U.S. regularly conduct joint drills such as the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises slated to take place next month. North Korea calls the drills proof of U.S. hostility, and accuses Washington of practicing for an invasion.
Since that is what the North Korean leadership has already inflicted on its own country, “miserable destruction” is something Pyongyang knows well.
Nevertheless, we hope American negotiators are making it plain to China behind the scenes that American patience with North Korea is not inexhaustible. It’s understandable that China would cling to one of the few real allies it has in the region, but North Korea’s behavior reflects badly on Beijing, and ultimately Beijing’s failure to rein in Pyongyang will have unpleasant consequences for the PRC.
South Korea and Japan have been getting antsy in light of North Korea’s persistent display of its military muscle. Presumably President Obama spent some time discussing this issue with Japan’s Prime Minister Abe during his visit. We need to reassure our allies that our commitment to deterrence in the region is real.