As it warned that the expansion of the United States’ ongoing military exercises with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “extreme red line,” North Korea stated that it is prepared to respond to US military actions with the “most overwhelming nuclear force.”
The US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this week that the United States would increase its deployment of advanced military assets to the Korean Peninsula, including fighter jets and aircraft carriers, as it strengthens joint training and operational planning with South Korea. The statement made by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday also follows Austin’s comments.
Since North Korea tested dozens of missiles in 2022, including potentially nuclear-capable ones designed to strike targets in South Korea and the US mainland, security concerns in South Korea have increased.
North Korea stated in a statement that was attributed to an unidentified spokesperson for its Foreign Ministry that the expansion of the allied drills threatened to transform the Korean Peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone.”
According to the statement, the North is ready to use the “most overwhelming nuclear force” to respond to the allies’ short-term or long-term military challenges.
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The spokesperson stated, “The reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces have reached an extreme red line due to the military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.”
Despite the fact that the allies have described those drills as defensive, North Korea has for decades claimed that the United States’ joint military exercises with South Korea were preparations for an upcoming invasion.
According to the Defense Ministry of South Korea, during an exercise on Wednesday, the United States flew B-1B bombers as well as F-22 and F-35 fighter jets above South Korea’s western waters with South Korean fighters.
Thursday also saw additional air drills with stealth fighters and strategic bombers.
A simulation exercise is also planned for this month by the United States and South Korea to sharpen their response in the event that North Korea uses nuclear weapons.
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‘Nuke for nuke’
As the allies resumed their extensive training in 2022, North Korea intensified its own demonstrations of weapons. A slew of missile and artillery launches that it claimed were simulated nuclear attacks on US and South Korean targets were among North Korea’s actions.
“DPRK will take the toughest reaction to any military attempt of the US on the principle of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation,'” the North Korean spokesperson said, referring to the formal name of the country, which is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Defense Ministry of South Korea, according to spokesperson Jeon Ha Gyu, had no immediate comment regarding the North Korean statement.
He stated that the most recent aerial exercises by the allies were meant to demonstrate the credibility of the United States’ “extended deterrence,” which is a promise to defend South Korea with all of its military resources, including nuclear ones. He withheld the precise number of South Korean and US aircraft participating in the exercise.
Austin said at a news conference after their meeting that he and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup had agreed to increase the number of live-fire demonstrations in their combined military exercises.
They said they would continue to deploy US strategic assets to the region “in a timely and coordinated manner.”
They claimed that their nations’ successful resumption of large-scale military exercises the previous year demonstrated their collective capacity to deter North Korean aggression. In recent years, the allies had reduced their training to make room for diplomacy with North Korea under the Trump administration and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read: North Korea blames UN chief for siding with US over Pyongyang’s ICBM launch
Derailed nuclear negotiations
During a provocative period of North Korean weapons tests, the United States of America and South Korea have also been intensifying their security cooperation with Japan, which recently included trilateral missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises.
“We sent aircraft of the fifth generation, including F-22s and F-35s, and we sent a carrier strike group to the peninsula. Going forward, you can anticipate more of that kind of activity,” Austin stated.
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un intensifies his pursuit of a nuclear weapon, tensions could escalate further in the coming months.
Kim called for an “exponential increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons that target South Korea, and the creation of more potent long-range missiles that can reach the US mainland at a political conference in December.
According to experts, Kim’s push for nuclear weapons aims to persuade the United States to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power so that it can negotiate the economic concessions it desperately needs from a position of strength.
Because of disagreements regarding a relaxation of US-led economic sanctions against the North in exchange for North Korea taking steps to end its nuclear weapons and missile programs, nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been stalled since 2019.
Accusing Washington of maintaining sanctions and military pressure to force the North to “disarm itself unilaterally,” the North Korean spokesperson stated that Pyongyang is not interested in establishing any kind of contact or dialogue with the United States so long as it maintains its “hostile policy and confrontational line.”