Dr. Cha says he's watching “with greater apprehension any negative rhetoric coming out of the North. Before, we could chalk it up to typical North Korean tactics.”
Tensions escalated Monday as thousands of US and South Korean troops opened two weeks of war games. Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency declared its forces “ready to fight a war” in which “the war mongers will meet destruction.”
Kim Jong-un, in the role of “supreme commander” that he has had since his father died in December, vowed “powerful retaliatory strikes” if US and South Korean troops enter North Korean waters.
Mr. Kim made the threat in a visit to a military unit by the Yellow Sea last weekend, evoking memories of the artillery barrage on nearby Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010 in which two South Korean marines and two civilians died. North Korea accused the South Koreans, who were conducting military exercises at the time, of opening fire on their territory.
By staging the current exercises, said the Korean Central News Agency, US and South Korean forces were “guilty of unpardonable infringement upon the sovereignty of North Korea.”
The US command has been careful to stress the harmless nature of the exercises in which as many as 200,000 South Korean troops and several thousand Americans conduct exercises more often than not on computers. The command said the exercises – called Key Resolve – were “entirely non-provocative in nature.”