After North Korea demonstrated for the first time its ability to build a nuclear-capable missile capable of striking the US, US and South Korean forces responded with a show of force by firing deep-strike, precision missiles into the sea.
After the dueling shows of military force by rival nations, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of American troops in South Korea, gave a blunt assessment of the tense situation.
“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Brooks told the New York Times in reference to the Korean War, which ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty in 1953.
“As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders,” said Brooks, adding that it “would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”
North Korea has often provoked the US, most recently by detaining a healthy US student who was travelling through Pyongyang and releasing him back to the US in a coma.
North Korea’s continued ballistic missile and nuclear tests also have the stated purpose of targeting the US.
But while the US does stockpile weapons and forces in South Korea to potentially thwart or initiate an attack, the US does not retaliate militarily.
Instead, US armed forces merely stand ready as North Korea’s nuclear and conventional weapons hold major US-allied cities like Seoul and Tokyo at risk.