A growing US presence off the Korean Peninsula is reportedly part of a plan aimed at ‘incapacitating’ Kim Jong-Un’s despotic regime in Pyongyang should conflict break out.
A nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Wednesday for joint military exercises in the latest show of force against the North.
The USS Carl Vinson arrived at the southern port of Busan as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a tour of the region, where tensions have escalated in recent weeks with missile launches from the nuclear-armed North and the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s estranged half-brother in Malaysia.
More than 80 aircraft, including the fighter aircraft F/A-18F Super Hornet, the E-2C Hawkeye and the carrier-based EA-18G Growler are on board the supercarrier.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency claims the heightened military presence is part of a plan to decapitate North Korean leadership.
The Daily Mail reports,
They claim a military official, who wished to remain anonymous, told them: ‘A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practice missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities.’
The aircraft carrier and a US destroyer will conduct naval drills including an anti-submarine manoeuvre with South Koreans in waters off the Korean peninsula as part of the annual Foal Eagle exercise.
Washington insist they are purely defensive in nature.
Rear Admiral James Kilby, commander of USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group 1, said: ‘The importance of the exercise is to continue to build our alliance and our relationship and strengthen that working relationship between our ships.’
Yonhap news agency said the navy drills will begin next week.
The US has also started to deploy ‘Gray Eagle’ attack drones to South Korea, a military spokesman revealed on Monday.
South Korean and U.S. troops began the large-scale joint drills on March 1.
The exercise last year involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans. This year’s exercise is expected to be of a similar scale.
The spike in tensions has concerned Beijing, with China’s Foreign Ministry calling on all sides to end ‘a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control.’
North Korea, which has alarmed its neighbours with two nuclear tests and a string of missile launches since last year, said the arrival of the US strike group was part of a ‘reckless scheme’ to attack it.
The North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said: ‘If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater.
‘On March 11 alone, many enemy carrier-based aircraft flew along a course near territorial air and waters of the DPRK to stage drills of dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets of its army,’ KCNA said.
Last week, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan in response to annual U.S.-South Korea military drills, which the North sees as preparation for war.
The murder in Malaysia last month of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother has added to the sense of urgency to efforts to get a grip on North Korea.
Visiting the headquarters of an army unit early this month, Kim praised his troops for their ‘vigilance against the US and South Korean enemy forces that are making frantic efforts for invasion’, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.
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