After North Korea shot a missile over Japan on Monday, South Korea isn’t mincing military muscle. Hours later, four South Korean F-15K jetfighters loaded with eight MK 84 bombs — designed to penetrate hard targets — ran a simulation at the Taebaek Pilsung Firing Range that demonstrated Seoul’s ability to blow Pyongyang leadership into smithereens. “The drill reconfirmed South Korea Air Force capability to destroy the enemy’s leadership in cases of emergency,” explained an official within the South Korean Defense Ministry.
It was equal parts practical preparation and diplomatic message. “Our goal is to stop North Korea from going down this road. The international community has to put more pressure on North Korea,” said Koro Bessho, Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations. President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agree and indicated that “all options are on the table” following North Korea’s latest test, which shot over the north eastern island of Hokkaido. That’s also where Japan and the United States collaborated in joint military exercises on Monday.
South Korea’s live-fire demonstration, which involved 16,000 pounds of ammunition, took place in the northeastern Gangwon province that borders North Korea and sits roughly five hours from Seoul. The decision to run the drill was carefully selected as a response that would caution North Korea without provoking Kim Jong-un into outright war. President Moon Jae-in stated the plan was “to showcase a strong punishment capability against the North.” The live-fire exercise did just that, hitting all targets without a hitch.
It remains to be seen if President Trump will try to handle this latest affront by North Korea through his famously aggressive Twitter rhetoric. Hopefully, he won’t have to drop any rhetorical bombshells — or summon up U.S. firepower — however, if South Korea’s actual heavy explosives manage to quell Kim Jong-un’s recent bravado.