October 20, 2022 10:46
The South Korean military is on high alert after North Korea fired another 100 artillery shells on Wednesday into a buffer zone in the West Sea, violating a 2018 cross-border military agreement.
It fired some 250 artillery shells into buffer zones in the East and West Seas the previous day and has fired artillery rounds eight times since Oct. 14.
The U.S. Air Force kept watch on North Korea's military movements Wednesday by sending an E-3B early warning aircraft over the West Sea and the capital region while putting B-1B strategic bombers on standby on Guam.
Pyongyang blames massive South Korea-U.S. military drills on its doorstep for its recent provocations. The North Korean Chiefs of the General Staff said it fired artillery shells into the buffer zone "in response to military provocation" by South Korea and the U.S.
But the U.S. Forces Korea recently carried out live-fire drills with multiple rocket launchers in a southward direction from Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, south of the buffer zone.
Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff here in a recent internal report speculated that the North will have more than 200 nuclear weapons by 2027. Washington seems to regard 200 as the red line where denuclearization talks are no longer feasible.
In its 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength released Tuesday, the conservative Heritage Foundation says, "Pyongyang is on the path to developing capabilities that go beyond deterrence to a viable true warfighting strategy. The regime might also assume that conditions for military action had become favorable if it believed the U.S. extended deterrence guarantee had been undermined. During a crisis, the threshold for use of nuclear weapons could be more easily breached."
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un enshrined preemptive use of nuclear weapons in law last month. He said the North will "never give up nuclear weapons and there is absolutely no denuclearization, no negotiation, and no bargaining chip to trade in the process."
The JCS here expects the North to ramp up threats against South Korea, while strengthening its position as a nuclear power.
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