According to the most senior official in the U.S. armed forces, canceling the upcoming joint military drills between the United States and South Korea — drills both China and North Korea have said will only ratchet up regional tension — is simply not an option.
Stating that a cancellation is “not currently on the table as part of the negotiation at any level,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said Thursday the U.S. military must stay sharp and alert:
As long as the threat in North Korea exists, we need to maintain a high state of readiness to respond to that threat.”
As Anti-Media has reported, in addition to delaying a proposed missile launch toward Guam, Kim Jong-un appeared to suggest this week that if the U.S. and South Korea decide to call off the drills, all parties can move toward de-escalation.
Considering Chairman Dunford’s comments, however, de-escalation doesn’t seem to be a priority for the United States. Nor does it seem to be a priority for the third member of the regional coalition with the U.S. and South Korea, Japan.
On Thursday, senior officials from the United States and Japan, citing the North Korean nuclear threat, announced that the two countries will bolster their military partnership.
“For this threat of North Korea, at this meeting we agreed to increase the pressure and to strengthen the alliance capability,” said Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
Onodera and his countryman, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, had just had a private meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Given the group’s announcement, no doubt a topic of discussion was Japan’s desire to install a new U.S.-supplied missile system within its borders.
From the Japan Times:
“The Defense Ministry plans to introduce a land-based Aegis missile defense system to respond to North Korea’s missile threats and will seek funding in the next fiscal year to cover system design costs, a government source said Wednesday.”
Further highlighting the increasingly interwoven nature of the two countries’ militaries in East Asia, the Japan Times writes that the defense ministry “also plans to budget a space unit that will be created within the Self-Defense Forces to protect satellites used by Japan and the United States to detect ballistic missile launches.”
As for the price of the Aegis system and its associated costs, the defense ministry will have to wait to reveal the amount “because of the need for consultations with the United States.”