North Korea warns of ‘toughest reaction’ to allied drills

In a statement attributed to an unidentified spokesperson for its foreign ministry, North Korea said the expansion of allied exercises threatened to turn the Korean peninsula into a “huge arsenal of warfare and a larger war zone.” critical”. The statement said the North is ready to counter any short- or long-term military challenge from allies with the “most overwhelming nuclear force”.

“The military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red line due to reckless military confrontation maneuvers and hostile acts by the United States and its vassal forces,” the spokesperson said.

For decades, North Korea has portrayed combined U.S. military exercises with South Korea as rehearsals for a possible invasion, though allies have called the drills defensive.

Last year, North Korea stepped up its own weapons demonstrations as allies resumed large-scale training that had been curtailed for years. North Korea’s actions included a series of missile and artillery launches it described as simulated nuclear attacks against South Korean and American targets.

“The DPRK will adopt the toughest reaction to any military attempt by the United States on the principle of ‘nuclear weapon for nuclear weapon and all-out confrontation for all-out confrontation!'” the North Korean spokesman said. invoking the official name of the country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“If the United States continues to introduce strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula and its environs, the DPRK will without fail specify its deterrence activities according to their nature,” the spokesperson said.

Jeon Ha Gyu, spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said the ministry had no immediate comment in response to the North Korean statement. He said the latest allied air exercises were intended to demonstrate the credibility of the United States’ “extended deterrence”, referring to a commitment to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend South Korea. South. He declined to reveal the exact number of American and South Korean planes involved in the exercise.

Austin’s visit comes as South Korea seeks stronger assurances that the United States will quickly and decisively use its nuclear capabilities to shield its ally from a North Korean nuclear attack.

South Korea’s security concerns have grown since North Korea tested dozens of missiles in 2022, including potentially nuclear missiles designed to strike targets in South Korea and on the American mainland. North Korea’s elevated testing activity has been punctuated by threats of pre-emptive use of its nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios in which it perceives its leadership to be under threat, including conventional confrontations or situations of no -war.

At a press conference following their meeting, Austin said he and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup agreed to further expand their combined military exercises, including more demonstrations at real shot. They pledged to continue a “timely and coordinated” deployment of US strategic assets in the region.

They said their countries’ resumption of large-scale military exercises last year had effectively demonstrated their combined abilities to deter North Korean aggression. The allies had reduced their training in recent years to create room for diplomacy with North Korea under the Trump administration and because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea and the United States have also stepped up security cooperation with Japan, which has included trilateral missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises in recent months amid the provocative race. North Korean weapons testing.

“We have deployed fifth generation aircraft, F-22s and F-35s, we have deployed a carrier strike group to visit the peninsula. You can look for more such activities in the future,” Austin said.

Tensions could rise further in the coming months, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doubling down on his nuclear ambitions.

At a policy conference in December, Kim called for an “exponential increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of tactical battlefield nuclear weapons targeting South Korea and development of long-range missiles more powerful designed to reach the American continent.

Experts say Kim’s nuclear push is intended to force the United States to accept the idea of ​​North Korea as a nuclear power and then negotiate much-needed economic concessions from a position of strength.

Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea have been derailed since 2019 over disagreements over an easing of US-led economic sanctions against the North in return for North Korea taking steps to end its its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

North Korea’s spokesman said Pyongyang was not interested in any contact or dialogue with the United States as long as it maintained its ‘hostile policy and line of confrontation’, accusing Washington of maintaining sanctions and pressure military force to force the North to “disarm unilaterally”. .”


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