By Meaghan Fleck, International News Writer
In the midst of political uncertainty in South Korea, the United States military recently announced that multiple US attack drones will now be stationed across South Korea. According to the US Army, these drones “offer greater range, altitude, and payload flexibility.” Additionally, these updates drones have significantly more accurate surveillance technology and are overall more efficient.
While US military presence in South Korea is nothing new, it is likely that this strengthening of drone technology is a reaction to recent test missile launches performed by North Korea in the Sea of Japan. Fears that North Korea is preparing to target US military bases in South Korea are mounting across the globe as it becomes more uncertain what the actual nuclear capabilities of the country are.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson toured the region shortly after reports of North Korea’s test launches meeting with South Korean, Japanese, and Chinese officials. Tillerson has since rejected the idea of holding negotiations with the North Korean government until they uphold denuclearization accords that have been made on several occasions in the past, according to the New York Times.
In addition to these new drones, the United States has also taken further steps to protect against North Korean nuclear attacks. The plans to build a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were approved by recently impeached President Park Guen-hye, however, it is unclear whether or not these plans will be implemented by whoever is selected as her successor. Even though THAAD has the potential to block missile attacks its use has been met with considerable resistance from some South Koreans and from China. The Chinese government in particular is concerned about potential security and privacy threats that THAAD poses to their own nation.
These military updates also go beyond building up defenses against North Korea. According to CNN, this move is likely a sign that “the US wants to make sure that Pyongyang – and to a lesser extent Beijing – has no doubts that Washington is a major player in Asia”. Expanded upon and strengthening US military presence in the area sends a clear message to Asian nations that the US is there to stay.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st print edition.
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