The U.S. and South Korea scrambled fighter jets in a show of force to Kim Jong Un and vowed a tough response to further provocations, hours ahead of the deadline North Korea set for a military action.
Four U.S. F-16s and four South Korean F-15Ks teamed up for a combat drill Saturday, while the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen of the two countries agreed in a phone call to respond “strongly” to any North Korean attack, Col. Jeon Ha Kyu, a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said by phone.
The U.S. is “steadfast” in its commitment to South Korea and together will continue their joint annual military exercises until Aug. 28 to heighten readiness, Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear told reporters Friday in Washington. Earlier, there was a brief suspension of the exercises, which began Monday.
“Will there be escalation? Possibly,” Patrick Cronin, senior adviser for the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said in an e-mail. “If that happens, then one simply does not know what happens next. Even a ‘limited’ exchange could create a serious war-footing in both Koreas and alter the regional agenda.”
This week’s confrontation is one of the most serious since Kim rose to power in 2011, sending South Korean stocks to a two-year low. The won retreated 0.8 percent Friday as China expressed concern, urging both sides to avoid escalation.
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