North Korea warns US of ‘powerful’ response to allied drills
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s Foreign Ministry has criticized the United States for expanding joint military exercises with South Korea that it says are practices for a potential invasion, and warned on Tuesday of “stronger follow-up measures” in response.
The ministry’s statement came as the United States and South Korea conducted air drills involving more than 200 warplanes, including their advanced F-35 fighter jets, as they stepped up their defense posture in the face of increased North Korean weapons tests and the growing nuclear threat. .
North Korea has increased its weapons displays at a record pace this year, launching more than 40 ballistic missiles, including development intercontinental ballistic missiles and an intermediate range missile. missile fired over Japan. The North has punctuated those tests with an escalating nuclear doctrine that authorizes pre-emptive nuclear strikes in defined crisis situations.
The United States and South Korea have resumed large-scale military exercises this year after being reduced or suspended in past years as part of efforts to create a diplomatic space with Pyongyang and because of the pandemic.
The U.S. and South Korean “Vigilant Storm” air force drills, which were due to continue until Friday, came after South Korea completed its annual “Hoguk” field exercises ” of 12 days that officials say also involved an unspecified number of US troops.
The last statement of North Korea was a few days after the country fired two short-range ballistic missiles in the sea, extending a barrage of launches from the end of September. Some of those launches have been described by the North as simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean and American targets.
North Korea has said that its test activities are intended as a warning amid joint military exercises. But some experts say Pyongyang is also using the drills as a chance to test new weapons systems, strengthen its nuclear capability and increase its leverage in future deals with Washington and Seoul.
In comments attributed to an unidentified spokesman, the North Korean Foreign Ministry statement said the military exercises exposed the United States as the “main culprit in the destruction of peace and security”. He said the North was ready to take “all necessary measures” to defend against external military threats.
“If the United States continuously persists in serious military provocations, the DPRK will take into account the most powerful follow-up measures,” the spokesman said, using North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea . The statement did not specify what those measures might be.
South Korean officials have said North Korea could up the ante in the coming weeks by detonating its first nuclear test device since September 2017, which could possibly move the country closer to its goals of building a full nuclear arsenal able to threaten the United States regionally. allies and the American continent.
In recent weeks, North Korea has also fired hundreds of shells into inter-Korean maritime buffer zones that the two Koreas established in 2018 to reduce frontline military tensions. North Korea said the fire was in reaction to South Korean live fire exercises in land border areas. The rival Koreas exchanged warning shots on Oct. 24 along their disputed western maritime border, a scene of bloodshed and past naval battles, as they accused each other of violating the border.
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