U.S. forces in the Korean Peninsula are ramping up troop readiness in response to North Korea’s recent increase of missile launches since the beginning of the new year.
“Following the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recent increase of missile launch frequency in 2022 and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s enhanced ballistic missile defense directive, the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed in the Republic of Korea - increased the intensity of their certification exercise recently to demonstrate USFK’s capabilities and commitment to defend the ROK against any threat or adversary,” a press release from U.S. Forces Korea read Tuesday.
As part of the armistice and wartime requirements set forth by the Republic of Korea-U.S. Alliance, the 35th ADA Patriot unit moved to a remote location, maintained a “wartime defensive position,” set up the Patriot missile system and executed air and missile defense operations in a combat simulation, the release stated.
“While this type of training is routinely conducted by U.S. Patriot batteries across the ROK, its increased intensity of its certification underscores the seriousness USFK takes against the DPRK’s recent missile launch behavior,” U.S. Forces Korea said.
In addition to rapidly renewing training requirements, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command also mobilized fighter jets from the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, as well as other regionally based Air Force planes.
While officials in Pyongyang reported full-blown missile launches Feb. 26 and Mar. 4, Pentagon statements clarified that the launches were only experimental, although likely the last step before a full-range ICBM launch.
Concerns have arisen from both U.S. and South Korean officials that North Korea may take that next step as soon as this week.
Analysts further believe that if North Korea does cross its current self-imposed line of withholding from fully testing its ICBMs, it will also pick up its threat of testing nuclear weapons, a concern that comes days after the world watched as Russia attacked the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, further stoking fears of another Cold War or a full-on nuclear fight.
If the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which was originally unveiled at a military parade in 2020 and is designed to carry nuclear arms, is launched full-range, though, it would be able to reach the continental United States.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.