In an unprecedented move, the US Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) of the Pentagon released a collection of photos associated with an alleged routine training drill which took place last month at the Kunsan (Gunsan) Air Base in the South Korean town of Gunsan.
According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, the operation in question was a regular joint drill between US Special Operations Command Korea and South Korea’s Special Warfare Command to rehearse the infiltration of North Korean facilities and practice capturing Pyongyang leaders.
The subsequent photo release on December 16, however, was unusual and questionable ahead of denuclearization negotiations which are scheduled to take place before the year’s end.
According to the select collection of images released by the Pentagon, US and South Korean troops conducted both a static line jump from a Boeing CH-47 Chinook and “close quarters battle training” at the US air base some 180 kilometers south of Seoul.
The South Korean outlet revealed that the Pentagon had also released video footage of the operation which showed an imagined gunfight between the allied forces and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Though it was deleted not long after, it was reuploaded by “Useful TV,” a Korean-language YouTube channel.
It’s unclear how long the video content was kept online before being deleted from DVIDS.
In addition to close combat engagement, snipers are seen practicing long-range support drills within the brief two-and-a-half minute clip. An F-16 is also seen flying overhead toward the end of the video.
Another clip showed the troops’ parachute descent from the Chinook.
This is not the only move to raise suspicious of worsening relations between the US and North Korea. A spokesperson for the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced Saturday that Washington’s decision to back a UN General Assembly resolution condemning so-called violations of human rights had continued to “pour oil over burning fire” between the two nations.
"It is a revelation of the inveterate repugnancy towards our system and a grave political provocation against our state,” the official said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “Such malicious words which came at this time when the DPRK-US relations are reaching a highly delicate point will only produce a result of further aggravating the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula.”
While the scheduling of negotiations remain unknown, Western outlets and US officials believe North Korea may abandon their unilateral moratorium on long-range missile tests and issue the US a “Christmas gift” around the December 25 holiday.
“What I would expect is some type of long-range ballistic missile would be the gift. It’s just a matter of does it come on Christmas Eve, does it come on Christmas Day, does it come after the New Year,” Gen. Charles Brown, commander of Pacific Air Forces and air component commander for US Indo-Pacific Command told reporters on December 17.