SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Thursday it was ready to counter U.S. military maneuvers with “the most formidable nuclear force” as it warned that joint U.S. military exercises with rival South Korea is an extension of Pushing the tension to the “extreme red line”.
The statement by Pyongyang’s foreign ministry came in response to comments by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said in Seoul on Tuesday that the US would increase the deployment of its advanced military assets to the Korean Peninsula, including fighter jets and aircraft carrier, as it strengthens joint training and operational planning with South Korea.
South Korea’s security has been heightened since North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles in 2022, including potentially nuclear-capable missiles aimed at targets in South Korea and the US mainland. are made.
In a statement attributed to an unidentified spokesman for its foreign ministry, North Korea said the expansion of allied exercises risks turning the Korean Peninsula into a “larger war arsenal and a more fragile war zone.” The statement said. The North is ready to meet any short- or long-term military challenge from allies with the “most formidable nuclear power”.
The spokesman said that the military and political situation in the Korean Peninsula and the region has reached an extreme red line due to the reckless military confrontation and hostile actions of the United States and its aggressive forces.
North Korea has for decades described joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea as rehearsals for a possible attack, though the allies describe the drills as defensive.
The U.S. flew B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets in an exercise with South Korean fighters over the western waters of South Korea on Wednesday, South Korea’s defense ministry said. The US and South Korea are also planning a simulation exercise this month aimed at sharpening their response in the event of North Korea using nuclear weapons.
North Korea stepped up its weapons demonstrations in 2022 as allies resumed large-scale training. North Korea’s actions included multiple missile and artillery strikes it described as simulated nuclear strikes on South Korean and US targets.
North Korea’s spokesman said that ‘North Korea will respond strongly to any US military effort on the principle of nuclear-for-nuclear and all-out confrontation’. The official name of the country is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“If the U.S. continues to introduce strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula and the surrounding area, the DPRK will demonstrate its deterrence activities without failing in its nature,” the spokesman said.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha-gyu said the ministry had no immediate comment in response to North Korea’s statement. He said the allies’ latest air drills were meant to demonstrate America’s “extended deterrence” credibility, referring to its commitment to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities, to defend South Korea. . He declined to say the exact number of American and South Korean aircraft involved in the exercise.
At a news conference after their meeting, Austin said he and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup agreed to further expand their joint military exercises, including more live-fire demonstrations. He pledged to continue the “timely and coordinated” deployment of US strategic assets in the region.
They said their countries’ resumption of large-scale military exercises last year effectively demonstrated their joint capabilities to deter North Korean aggression. The allies scaled back their training in recent years to make room for diplomacy with North Korea during the Trump administration and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea and the U.S. are also strengthening their security cooperation with Japan, which has recently included trilateral missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises amid North Korea’s provocative run of weapons tests.
“We deployed fifth-generation aircraft, F-22s and F-35s, we deployed a carrier strike group to visit the peninsula. You can look for more of these types of activities,” Austin said. .
Tensions could rise further in the coming months as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un doubles down on his nuclear ambitions.
During a policy conference in December, Kim called for a “rapid increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons aimed at South Korea, and more powerful long-range missiles capable of reaching the US mainland. He stressed on the production of missiles.
Experts say Kim’s nuclear push is aimed at forcing the United States to accept North Korea as a nuclear power so that it can negotiate much-needed economic concessions from a position of strength. Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea have been derailed since 2019 due to disagreements over the easing of U.S.-led economic sanctions against North Korea in exchange for steps by North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missile programs. .
A North Korean spokesman said Pyongyang was not interested in any contact or dialogue with the United States as long as it maintained its “oppositional policy and confrontational line,” Washington’s sanctions on North Korea. And accuses the military of maintaining pressure. Unilaterally disarming oneself