On December 25th, the US flew four spy planes over the Korean Peninsula at the same time, according to Aircraft Spots. Spy planes above the Korean peninsula are nothing new, and these flights happen especially commonly following North Korean weapon tests.
USAF RC-135W 62-4139 TORA24 on task over the Korean Peninsula at 31,000 feet
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) December 24, 2019
Activity such as this, with 4 spy planes flying at the same time, however, is surprising and is evidence that Washington takes Pyongyang’s promise of a “Christmas gift” – a possible ICBM test very seriously.
According to Aircraft Spots, the four aircraft — RC-135W Rivet Joint, E-8C, RQ-4 Global Hawk and RC-135S Cobra Ball — were believed to have carried out missions over and around the Korean Peninsula.
The RC-135W and the E-8C flew at 31,000 feet, while the Global Hawk was spotted at 53,000 feet. The RC-135S took off from Japan’s Kadena Air Base and conducted missions over the East Sea, according to the tracker. A KC-135R refueling aircraft also flew over the East Sea.
South Korea and the U.S. have strengthened vigilance against the possibility of North Korea firing an ICBM or a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), or undertaking other types of provocations, military sources told Korean outlet YonHap.
Green Pine land-based radars were in operation on the ground, while an Aegis destroyer equipped with the SPY-1D radar system was deployed off shore and an E-737 Peace Eye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft was carrying out a mission in the air, the unnamed sources added.
“We’re keeping a close watch over military moves in North Korea,” a source said.
On December 23rd, US President Donald Trump said that he could successfully deal with whatever “Christmas Gift” North Korea came up with.
“We’ll find out what the surprise is, and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” Trump told reporters at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “Everybody’s got surprises for me, but let’s see what happens. I handle them as they come along.”
Asked what options he is considering, Trump continued, “We’ll see what happens. Let’s see. Maybe it’s a nice present. Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test. I may get a vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don’t know. You never know.”
North Korea recently said that denuclearization was off the negotiating table, as the US refused to provide any concessions from the heavy sanction regime against Pyongyang.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un gave a deadline until the end of 2019 for the US to change its course, otherwise Pyongyang would also walk back on some of its commitments. Five days before the end of the year, it appears unlikely that Washington is to undertake any steps.
The US and South Korea are showing an increased military activity.
However, Seoul and Washington failed to agree on what financial contribution South Korea should provide for the 23,500 troops the US has stationed in the country.
YonHap cited Jun Bong-geun, professor at the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA) who said that the North may launch a maximum number of “gray-zone” provocations, stopping short of testing an ICBM just to attempt and force the US into providing some concessions.
“Though strong provocations are expected, the North may not go all the way to an ICBM launch, as the launch could make it difficult for Pyongyang to secure support from China and Russia,” Jun told YonHap, an outlet famous for its anti-North Korean propaganda.
“But the North would pressure the U.S. to make concessions and change its calculus while engaging in maximum gray-zone provocations,” he added.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- NORAD Claims It’s Tracking Gift Giving From Both Santa Claus and North Korea
- Is This Kim’s “Christmas Gift”? Satellite Images Suggest North Korea Readying ICBM Tests
- North Korea Conducts “Another Crucial Test” At Missile Site To ‘Bolster Nuclear Deterrent’