N.Korea Keeps up Rhetoric Over S.Korea-U.S. Air Drills

  • By Lee Yong-soo, Kim Myong-song

    November 18, 2019 12:27

    North Korea conducted its own aerial maneuvers with fully armed Mig-29 and Su-25 fighter jets right before the U.S. and South Korea decided to postpone their own joint air defense drill.

    The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday reported that leader Kim Jong-un attended a combat flight contest. He oversaw North Korean fighter pilots "conduct bombing flight and firing flight under the command of the formation flight."

    Pictures showed Mig-29, Su-25 and Mig-23 fighter planes taking off laden with bombs and dropping munitions on targets. The air contests started in 2014 but were paused when Washington and Pyongyang were engaging in dialogue. But they resumed this year, apparently because the U.S. and South Korea were also poised to resume air defense drills at the end of this month.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) watches a combat flight contest, in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television on Saturday.

    The U.S. originally insisted that the joint drill will not be affected by "North Korea's anger," but ended up postponing it.

    Kim Hee-sang at the Korea Institute for National Security Affairs said, "North Korea is publicly holding its aerial exercises, but we have halted ours just because the North doesn't like them. We are being too mindful of agitating North Korea."

    North Korea kept up the belligerent rhetoric despite the cancellation. A spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry on Sunday said the U.S. is behind a "human rights uproar" aimed at the North after the UN adopted a new human rights resolution against the regime last week, and added that Pyongyang "no longer has the desire to sit face to face with such a counterpart."

    North Korean fighter jets fly in formation during a combat flight contest, in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television on Saturday.

    Choi Jin-wook, a former head of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said, "North Korea has become more audacious now the U.S. and [South] Korea have yielded on pressuring the North with joint military drills."

    Nam Sung-wook at Korea University said, "North Korea wants to get more concessions from U.S. President Donald Trump, who is facing impeachment hearings."

    Meanwhile, In his tweet on Sunday, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

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