As the annual, join USFK (US Forces Korea) and ROK (Republic of Korea) RSO&I exercise draws to a close, its time for North Korea to rattle its saber as usual. Typically, the DPRK performs a deed coinciding with the exercise’s drawdown such that it can proclaim to its people, “See? The US and ROK have withdrawn their forces for fear of the mighty DPRK military.” To anyone that has not been involved with the military in Korea, this may sound all in jest but it is exactly what happens, year after year.
2009 is no different and the North Koreans have raised the stakes yet again. It began with a unilateral threat that the safety of commercial aircraft near North Korean airspace could not be guaranteed. While it was not believed a shooting would actually occur, it should be noted that North Korea has downed commercial airliners in the past. Ultimately, it is believed the threat was made to ensure airspace around the communist country would be clear for a missile test from the No-dong facility. This test will occur shortly after RSO&I and is being performed under the guise of testing the feasibility of launching a satellite. Given the poor track record of North Korean weapons, Japan is hardly buying the story intends to deploy interceptors to act as a defence shield should debris (or the missile itself) threaten their mainland. To this, the North Koreans have stated that any interdiction against their hardware will be construed as an act of war to wit the United States has responded it intends to do nothing about the launch. Despite this, the missile has a theoretical range capable of striking Alaska and even Hawaii.
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