In disregard of the warnings of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (ROK) military began a 15-day joint military exercise with the US "as planned” on August 5. The exercise will be conducted on computers by simulating emergency on the Korean Peninsula. It is understood that the official schedule and codename of the exercise will be released when Mark Esper, the new US Secretary of Defense, visits the ROK on August 9.
This is the first time that the ROK generals will take the position of chief commander of the joint military exercises. Would the US therefore transfer the command of wartime operations to the ROK as expected? Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, Director of the Expert Committee for Naval Informatization and Senior Researcher with the Weapon Research Center of the PLA Navy, believed that at present, the ROK is still not well-prepared, since it lacks autonomous system for intelligence acquisition, distribution and identification, as well as the ability to exercise communication and command independently, without relying on the US military. Neither could it conduct close investigation on the DPRK’s nuclear activities nor missile tests alone, without resorting to the US satellite and electronic reconnaissance. So, it will still be the US’s call to decide whether and when the ROK should recover its wartime command rights.
And also there is one thing for sure that the US will not hand over all its information technology, reconnaissance system, communication and commanding network to the ROK. The US military has its own interests in the Korean Peninsula that are not completely related to the ROK. The ROK-based intelligence system of the US is aimed at both the Korean Peninsula and its neighboring countries, including China, Russia and Japan. The US will never disclose all the information to the ROK, and the ROK has no right to intervene, too. Therefore, this is just an exercise allowing the Koreans to experience the transferring of command to some extent, but absolutely denying the transfer in complete and real sense.
Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo believed that this is a routine military exercise between the ROK and US, traditionally given the offensive nature. In its scenario, a major accident happens on the Korean Peninsula where the US military intervenes, sending troops from the Pacific Ocean and gradually strengthening its military power on the Korean Peninsula thereafter. Other drills will also be conducted instantaneously during the exercise, including the occurrence of unexpected incidents in the DPRK and the joint entry of the US and ROK. Although the drill is computer simulated, these“lifelike”exercises are highly intensive in aggressiveness and pertinence, targeting the DPRK, which is highly provocative by design.
In return, Kim Jong-un, the leader of the DPRK has overseen the launch of new types of tactical missiles and said that it was an "appropriate" warning to the ongoing joint military exercise between the ROK and US. The DPRK side has repeatedly announced that the key to abandoning its nuclear program is to consider its fundamental interests and sign a peace agreement of legally binding to ensure the security of the DPRK and the Korean Peninsula. This is the bottom-line requirement of the DPRK side. However, the US has never made a clear statement, leading to a stalemate between the two sides.
At present, the US, along with the ROK, has made a bold violation of the basic spirits of the talks between the US-DPRK leaders including reducing confrontation and exercises, as well as stopping some large-scale exercises. It now appears that the US and the ROK are gradually resuming some of highly aggressive codenamed exercises. The DPRK carried out missile tests to signal its dissatisfaction but did not clearly show the content of tests. Although this form of response will not deliver a major transformative impact on the Korean Peninsula, it may indicate that the relations between the US, ROK and the DPRK are at a turning point and need to be handled with caution. This is especially true to the US side.
If the US cannot meet the DPRK’s core concerns, the possibility of making the DPRK abandoning nuclear weapons development will become slim. If the US and ROK continue to provoke the DPRK by means of military exercises or others, instead of moving in the direction of substantive dialogue, they are bound to fail to live up to the efforts of the various parties to promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on CNR.CN as an interview with Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, Director of the Expert Committee for Naval Informatization and Senior Researcher with the Weapon Research Center of the PLA Navy , and is edited and translated from Chinese into English by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.