Seoul flexes its military muscle

Seoul flexes its military muscle
By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS

The South Korean navy has begun manoeuvres in the Sea of Japan which are meant, analysts say, to deter the North from any action at sea.

Seoul is continuing to flex its military muscle as tension mounts on the Korean peninsula.

The South Korean navy has begun manoeuvres in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, which are meant, analysts say, to deter the North from any action at sea.

Why are they doing this?

Because Pyongyang tested its strongest nuclear bomb yet 48 hours ago.

Sunday’s test was Pyongyang’s sixth and its most powerful to date.

North Korea says it tested a bomb which could on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“If the enemy launches any provocation, by land or sea, we will respond immediately and decisively,” said Choi Young-chan, commander of the 13th fleet of South Korea’s armed forces.

What did South Korea do in response?

Seoul launched a series of military live-fire manoeuvres.

The firepower

Seoul says the maritime manoeuvres involve the 2,500 ton frigate Gangwon, a patrol vessel of 1000 tons and a 400 ton destroyer in the Sea of Japan.

Diplomatic developments

US President Donald Trump has spoken with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in by telephone.

They agreed to lift the 500 kilo weight limit on warheads. It has been in place since 2001.

A White House statement also said the US President was ready to approve the sale of “billions of dollars” of military equipment to South Korea.

Thaad missile defence system

South Korea also says it will temporarily deploy four remaining launchers for a US THAAD missile defence system.

Government experts have completed an environmental assessment.

The deployment decision was made by President Moon Jae-in in the face of the growing tension sparked by North Korea.

The details

Some construction will be carried out to deploy the four launchers at the site in Seongju, south of Seoul.

There are currently two launchers at the location, a former golf course. The ministry did not specify when the launchers would be moved onto the site.

Is everyone in favour of the missile system?

No. China strongly objects to the THAAD.

Beijing says its powerful radar can probe deep into its territory, undermining national security.

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