North Korea has criticized the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military drills as a "dangerous military provocation," and warned these two countries that they will face a "merciless retaliation and unsparing punishment." These frightening remarks are made typically by Pyongyang.
These comments can be taken just as intimidation, but should not be overlooked as North Korea has been threatening for quite a while now to launch missiles toward areas around Guam.
However, North Korea is the one that has been heightening tensions. U.S.-South Korea joint military drills are conducted regularly and are nothing but a simulation of the command function within U.S. and South Korean forces on the assumption of nuclear and missile attacks by North Korea.
Moreover, only about 17,500 U.S. servicemen are participating in the ongoing exercise, a decrease from 25,000 last year.
Washington says the decrease in the scale of U.S. troops participating in the drills has no particular implication, but could be interpreted as a way to avoid provoking North Korea further as China and Russia are wary of the joint drills.
Even though the drills include Operation Plan 5015, which is based on the assumption of attacking the nerve center of the North Korean regime, Pyongyang's statement is undoubtedly an overreaction.
North Korea should be aware that its threat to launch missiles that would fly over Japan toward Guam is totally irrational and contrary to the common sense of the international community.
Regardless of North Korea's true intentions, there is no guarantee that any missiles launched by Pyongyang will not cause damage directly to Guam. The possibility cannot be ruled out, either, that North Korean missiles or their fragments will drop into Japan's territory including its territorial waters.
Generally, such a situation could be regarded as an armed attack and subject to counterattacks.
If North Korea really wants to have dialogue with the United States, Pyongyang should first and foremost stop threatening to launch missiles toward Guam. If North Korea uses military threats, it will only stir pro-war sentiment among U.S. citizens and thereby be counterproductive.
The North Korean regime should be aware that its brinkmanship strategy has reached its limit.
Steve Bannon and other top aides to U.S. President Donald Trump have left the government one after another, and some key posts in the State Department and Defense Department remain vacant.
Concerns remain about the U.S. government's failure to work out a sufficient strategy toward the North Korean issue as well as its capabilities at the working-level. This is obviously the reality that the United States faces. Under such circumstances, the United States should strengthen its alliance with Japan, South Korea, China and Russia and pursue direct and indirect dialogue with North Korea.