North Korea warns South ahead of RIMPAC exercises

July 29 (UPI) — North Korea condemned the South for deploying ships to take part in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise in Hawaii, calling the move an “outdated policy” that “practices subservience to the United States.”

Pyongyang propaganda service Uriminzokkiri stated Wednesday Seoul’s participation in the exercises, which will take place from Aug. 17 to 31, is a dangerous move that antagonizes the Kim Jong Un regime.

The U.S.-led drills are designed to “suppress by force [North Korea] and surrounding countries,” state media said, without mentioning China by name.

The countries teaming up in Hawaii for the drills are “seeking to realize hegemonic ambitions in the Asia-Pacific.” The event is “provocatively playing with fire,” Uriminzokkiri said.

Pyongyang also said the South was deploying its navy, including a 7,600-ton Aegis class destroyer, despite the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is indiscreet and reckless behavior,” North Korea said.

South Korea deployed two naval ships on July 18, including a 4,400-ton DDH-II class destroyer, which left from a military port on Jeju Island, Yonhap reported in mid-July.

Seoul’s military began to take part in the exercises in 1988, when it was invited as observer. In August, the South Koreans will for the first time assume the duties of Commander Task Force and lead a multinational combined force during the exercises, according to the South Korean press report.

The biennial RIMPAC exercises will involve about 10 countries, or roughly half the number of navies that took part in 2018.

South Korea has regularly taken part in RIMPAC, but has also stayed away from being more involved in the Trump administration’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.

Andrew Yeo, professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said in an analysis published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies last week Seoul has been “slow to embrace the Indo-Pacific concept” partly to avoid making relations with China more difficult.

China took part in RIMPAC in 2016 but did not participate in 2018 as tensions rose with the United States.

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