North Korea has said US military drills with South Korea are pushing tensions to “an extreme red line” and that it is prepared to counter the moves with the “most overwhelming nuclear force”.
The statement by the country’s foreign ministry, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.
“The military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red line due to the reckless military confrontational manoeuvres and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces,” it said.
During a visit to Seoul this week, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin with his South Korean counterpart vowed to expand military exercises and deploy more “strategic assets” such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers to counter North Korea’s weapons development.
Pyongyang warned the move threatened to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone”.
North Korea said it would respond to any military moves by the US, and had strong counteraction strategies, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary.
Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions. It was also observed reopening its shuttered nuclear weapons test site.
Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, along with his daughter, walks away from an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in this undated photo released on November 19, 2022. Pic: KCNA via Reuters
When asked about the tensions with North Korea, Mr Austin said the US goal was to promote greater security and stability and that it remained committed to defending South Korea.
“We will continue to work alongside our allies and train and ensure that we maintain credible and ready forces,” he said.
More than 28,500 American troops are based in South Korea.
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December 2022: North Korea ‘to test nuclear weapon’
On Wednesday, the United States and South Korea carried out a joint air drill with American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to South Korea’s defence ministry.
“The combined air drills this time show the US’s will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” it said.
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Washington rejected Pyongyang’s statement and reiterated a willingness to meet with its diplomats “at a time and place convenient for them” – and said the US has made clear “we have no hostile intent” toward North Korea.
“We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any sort of provocation. These are routine exercises fully consistent with past practice,” the White House statement said.
North Korea has maintained its recent weapons testing activities are legitimate counteractions to military drills between US and South Korean forces, which it views as an invasion rehearsal.
Washington and Seoul have said their exercises are defensive in nature.
Source : Sky News