Stealth Jets Sent to South Korea
The United States redeployed fifteen Stealth fighters to South Korea last week, while also ending our last diplomatic mission in North Korea.
The deployment last week of 15 stealth fighters to South Korea, along with the severing of the American military’s only official interaction with North Korea, appears to be part of a new push by the Bush administration to further isolate North Korea despite China’s hesitation to join the effort. The deployment, confirmed by the Pentagon on Friday after several news reports, came just after the Defense Department said Wednesday that it was suspending the search for soldiers missing in action since the Korean War.
The search was the Pentagon’s only mission inside North Korea and its only formal contact with the country’s military. The Pentagon said it acted to ensure American troops’ safety in the “uncertain environment created by North Korea’s unwillingness to participate in the six-party talks,” as a spokesman put it, referring to the lack of negotiations on the North’s nuclear arms program over 11 months.
Although senior Pentagon officials say the F-117 stealth fighters are part of preparation for a long-planned training exercise, the show of force comes at a delicate moment both militarily and politically. China, South Korea and some experts in the United States have urged the administration to make a more specific offer to North Korea, laying out what it would get in return for giving up its nuclear arms program. Administration officials, however, have suggested in recent interviews that they are headed toward taking a hard line, cracking down on the North’s exports of missiles, drugs and counterfeit currency.
The United States warned its allies this month that the North might be preparing to test a nuclear weapon. Now senior officials say American intelligence agencies are still monitoring several locations in North Korea where a nuclear test might be held, though they readily concede the evidence that the North will proceed with a test is “partial.”
Not a hopeful sign, to be sure.