SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea said allied troops in South Korea will not be bullied by North Korea’s announcement Tuesday that parts of its military have been put on their highest level of combat readiness.
“North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others,” according to a USFK statement.
“While the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea continue to maintain the armistice, North Korea continues its provocative behavior and rhetoric,” the statement said. “The Republic of Korea-U.S. alliance is strong and we remain committed to the defense of (South Korea).”
In recent weeks, North Korea has released almost daily threats and propaganda in response to United Nations’ sanctions placed on the cloistered country for its recent satellite launch and nuclear test, along with joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises now under way on the peninsula.
Experts on the North generally agree that while an all-out attack on South Korea is highly unlikely, a border skirmish or some other small-scale provocation is a possibility – but only after the additional personnel, equipment and firepower brought in for the Foal Eagle exercise, which ends April 30, have left.
“The Supreme Command puts all of its field artillery, including strategic rocket units and long-range artillery units into the No. 1 combat ready posture,” the North said Tuesday on its official Korean Central News Agency.
Those artillery units target the U.S. mainland, Hawaii and U.S. military bases in South Korea and around the Pacific region, the report said, although it is unclear that the North has the capability to accurately reach the most distant targets.
South Korean media outlets, quoting unidentified military officials, reported no unusual movements of North Korean troops or equipment have been detected.
Pyongyang has for weeks labeled the Foal Eagle exercise, along with the recently completed joint U.S.-South Korean Key Resolve war games, as preparations for a pre-emptive nuclear attack on North Korea.