Commentary: S. Korea-U.S. drills jeopardize stability in Northeast Asia


BEIJING, (Xinhua) — The large-scale joint military drills conducted by South Korea and the United States will jeopardize peace and stability in Northeast Asia, especially after regional tensions have escalated by the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea.

Tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops on Monday began the two-week Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, five months after the two countries launched the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises.

Although Seoul and Washington claimed that their drills are defensive, the exercises that simulate an all-out attack by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will make Pyongyang more aggressive and will worsen the already fragile and unstable situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Calling the South Korea-U.S. exercises the “most undisguised physical measure and provocative action,” the DPRK has vowed to “foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with the Korean-style nuclear deterrence.”

The drills took place at a time when the situation on the peninsula is extremely sensitive and complex, after Washington decided in July to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, which will greatly undermine strategic security in neighboring nations such as China and Russia.

Washington further deployed three bombers in Guam and they took off last week from Guam for their first operation together in the Asia-Pacific, which was viewed by the DPRK as “very unusual military actions.”

On Thursday, South Korea carried out large-scale live-fire exercises along the tense inter-Korean border and the DPRK criticized the action for bringing the peninsula into the “worst state of crisis.”

The muscle flexing out of the U.S. strategy of rebalancing to Asia and Seoul’s resolve to counter its northern neighbor will produce no good results but lead to a vicious circle of violence for violence.

Any improper handling of the drills could turn them into a real war, a scenario that no party is willing to see.

Furthermore, the drills will add uncertainties to a meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea, which is an important trilateral mechanism for cooperation and dialogue but has been shadowed by maritime territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and the THAAD deployment.

The China-proposed “parallel-track approach,” namely, working to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and replace the Korean armistice with a peace agreement at the same time, is a reasonable and practical way to resolve the issue.

Besides, efforts are needed to resume at an early date the six-party talks suspended since December 2008.

All in all, safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as well as promoting the denuclearization of the peninsula is in the common interests of concerned parties including the United States and South Korea.

It is advisable that the two countries proceed out of the overall interests of all countries in the region and work to cool down the tensions on the peninsula.