American, Japanese and South Korean naval forces have joined in a series of large-scale drills that are intended to prepare for acts of aggression by North Korea.
The Republic of Korea Navy announced Tuesday that it is holding a trilateral missile-defense exercise with Japanese and American naval forces off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. This drill will operate independently from the other large-scale annual exercises near the North Korean border, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, and it will allow sailors from all three navies to practice joint tracking of ballistic missiles. The destroyers Curtis Wilbur, Kirishima and Sejongdaewang will detect and track mock missile firings and will exchange information about the launches between ships. This is made possible by compatible technology – all three are equipped with the American-built Aegis system – and by a U.S.-operated satellite link.
Separately, the U.S. Navy carrier Carl Vinson and her air wing will arrive in Busan Wednesday to join in Operations Key Resolve and Foal Eagle. In addition, Korean military sources say that U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six – the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden – will be participating in exercises meant to "practice incapacitating North Korean leadership," according to Yonhap. The Army Rangers, the Delta Force and the Green Berets will also reportedly participate in the drills.
A Pentagon spokesman told Business Insider that the reports were incorrect, and that the military does not "train for decapitation missions." Pentagon officials told Fox News that Seal Team Six "is not part of this training," and that only local special operations units will be involved. However, South Korea has recently confirmed that it has a plan to eliminate Pyongyang's leadership in the event of war, and the Trump administration is said to be conducting a review of all available options for dealing with the "hermit kingdom" and its unpredictable government.
As the drills begin, the U.S. military has announced the forward deployment of the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle, an advanced surveillance and attack drone, to Kunsan Air Base near Seoul. The drone is reportedly capable of monitoring the entire Korean peninsula for up to 30 continuous flight hours, and it can carry the Hellfire air-to-surface missile. China has warned the U.S. that the deployment of the advanced drone and the U.S. military's THAAD anti-ballistic missile system threaten to destabilize the regional balance of power, and Beijing has called for concerned countries to "hit the brakes and try to put out the fire."
In an echo of its rhetoric during previous drills, North Korea has threatened "merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater" if the Foal Eagle exercises infringe on its "sovereignty and dignity.”