USA spy plane over North Korea, increases preparations for THAAD antimissile system in South Korea
US dispatches ‘sniffer plane’ as site chosen for THAAD deployment http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/us-dispatches-sniffer-plane-as-site-chosen-for-thaad-deployment/news-story/9e3425f3fc5bcc320304a3975496787 APRIL 20, 2017 Victoria Craw, news.com.au THE US has dispatched a specialised “sniffer plane” to detect nuclear particles over North Korea as the provision of land for a state-of-the-art missile defence system is confirmed.
A government source told a South Korean news agency the WC-135 Constant Phoenix made an “emergency sortie” over the East Sea with the mission of detecting nuclear samples to identify if a nuclear explosion had taken place.
It had arrived at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan earlier this month amid fears the rogue state will attempt to carry our further tests in violation of UN sanctions.
The plane had previously been deployed to Europe in February where it landed at a UK air base in Surrey before travelling over Norway. The US military said the aircraft operates on a pre-planned rotation that is scheduled well in advance.
The deployment comes amid a major training exercise held between South Korean and US forces in the region. Operation Max Thunder will see hundreds of troops undertake war games involving aircraft carriers, fighter jets and military drills over 11 days.
The US has stressed such exercises are routine, however it comes after Vice President Mike Pence said the “sword stands ready” if diplomacy fails.
North Korean has also threatened the country is “ready to react” and accused the US of creating a situation in which “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”
US and Korean forces are already taking part in two regional exercises, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, which involve up to 17,000 troops including the famed special forces team that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Meanwhile the regulatory process to pave the way for the US THAAD antimissile system has been completed. The 300,000 square metre site in the southeastern region of Seongju had already been chosen and was subject to protests with the transfer of land now complete.
“The chief of the joint committee approved it on Thursday, wrapping up the … process,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Rising tensions between North and South Korea have occurred against a backdrop of major political uncertainty after former President Park Geun-Hye was indicted for bribery and abuse of power charges.
The country will face elections on May 9 where the THAAD system could become an issue as presidential frontrunner.Democratic party frontrunner Moon Jai-in has called for a review of the deployment plan of the system that has seen large protests among South Koreans opposed to militarisation on the Korean Peninsula.
The US and South Korea insist the system is purely for defensive reasons. However China says it threatens its security and sovereignty.
Meanwhile Russia has also reportedly been moving troops, helicopters and vehicles to the North Korean border. While it has not been confirmed by the Kremlin, those in the region claim to have witnessed trains loaded with military equipment heading to the short northern border between the two countries.