- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2018

Pyongyang is quickly dropping its reconciliation rhetoric spurred by the ongoing Olympic games, once again threatening Washington from resuming joint military drills with South Korea at the conclusion of the games.

The resumption of joint military drills continues to be “a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of the DPRK and enthusiasm of the international community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment,” North Korean officials said in a statement on state-run media outlet Korean Central News Agency.

Officials in North Korea warned any U.S. military drills set to take place after the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, would endanger any goodwill toward ongoing reconciliation efforts on the peninsula, fostered between Pyongyang and Seoul in the run up to the games, the statement said.

The comments came after acting Chargé d’Affaires Marc Knapper suggested the drills could resume as soon as the Olympics wrap up on Feb. 25, adding the issue of suspending future war games on the peninsula has not been considered by the Trump White House, Chinese media outlet Xinhua News reported.

It’s been over two months since more than 200 U.S. and South Korean warplanes took to the skies above the Korean peninsula on Monday, in one of the largest military drills between the two allies in recent history and a massive show of force against the North Korean regime.

The annual exercise, dubbed Vigilant Ace, comes less than a week after Pyongyang carried out a successful test launch of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile. The test launch of the new Hwasong-15 weapon traveled longer and further than any North Korean intercontinental missile to date.

The launch, carried out from a North Korean weapons facility in Sain Ni, forced Japanese officials to put the country’s northern provinces located along the missile’s trajectory on high alert.

The Nov. 6 missile test was further proof that the North Korean regime remains committed to the “effort to build a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace and threatens the United States,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said shortly after the missile test.

The Pentagon said at the time that the large-scale war games between Washington and Seoul over the weekend were part of annual military drills routinely conducted between the allied nations. That said, the exercise featured several pieces of U.S. military hardware — such as the stealth-capable F-22A Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as long-range B-1 bombers — that could be used in potential strikes against North Korean targets, should war break out on the peninsula.

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