North Korea warns of ‘most severe response’ to allies’ military drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday announced joint military exercises with South Korea to counter Pyongyang’s growing nuclear ambitions, claiming allies were pushing tensions to the extreme. He threatened “the harshest response” to the expanding US. red line. “

A North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, in response to comments by US Secretary of Defense Royce Austin, said in Seoul on Tuesday that the US would increase its deployment of advanced military assets to the Korean peninsula, including fighter planes and aircraft carriers. rice field. Strengthen joint training and operational planning with South Korea.

South Korea’s defense ministry said the United States flew B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets in exercises with South Korean fighter jets on Wednesday, showing its latest strength in South Korea’s western waters. The United States and South Korea also plan to hold simulation exercises this month to bolster their response if North Korea uses its nuclear weapons.

In a statement by a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman who declined to be named, North Korea said the expansion of allied military exercises threatened to turn the Korean peninsula into a “massive war arsenal and a more important war zone.” The statement said North Korea was ready to meet any short-term or long-term military challenge by its allies with its “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 and hostilities by the United States and its vassal forces,” the spokesman said.

For decades, North Korea has described U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea as rehearsals for a potential invasion, while allies have described these exercises as defensive.

North Korea intensified demonstrations of its own weapons last year as allies resumed mass training that had been curtailed for years. It included numerous missile and artillery fires described as

“North Korea will take the toughest response to any US military attempt based on the principle of ‘nuclear for nuclear, total confrontation for total confrontation,'” said a North Korean spokesman, referring to the country’s official name. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“If the United States continues to introduce strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula and surrounding areas, North Korea will certainly articulate deterrence activities according to their nature,” said a spokesman.

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense spokesman Chung Ha Gyu said the defense ministry did not immediately comment on North Korea’s statement. It aims to demonstrate the credibility of “extended deterrence” and cites its commitment to use the full range of military capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend South Korea. He declined to disclose the exact number of South Korean aircraft.

Austin’s visit comes as South Korea seeks stronger assurances that the United States will swiftly and decisively use its nuclear capabilities to defend its allies in the face of a North Korean nuclear attack.

South Korea’s security concerns have increased since North Korea test-launched dozens of missiles in 2022, including a potential missile designed to hit targets in South Korea and the mainland United States. North Korea’s intensified testing activities pose a threat to its leadership, including in normal conflict and non-war conditions, which North Korea perceives. It has been interrupted by the threat of preemptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios.

At a press conference after the meeting, Austin said he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Lee Jong Seop had agreed to further expand joint military exercises, including more live-fire demonstrations. They pledged to continue the “timely and coordinated” deployment of US strategic assets to the region.

He said the two countries’ resumption of large-scale military exercises last year effectively demonstrated their combined ability to deter a North Korean aggression. The allies had scaled back their training in recent years to make room for diplomacy with North Korea due to the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea and the United States have also stepped up security cooperation with Japan, including trilateral missile defense and anti-submarine warfare exercises over the past few months, amid North Korea’s provocative conduct in weapons tests.

“We deployed fifth-generation aircraft, the F-22 and F-35, and deployed carrier strike groups to visit the peninsula. says.

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

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

Experts say Kim’s nuclear push is aimed at getting the United States to accept the idea that North Korea is a nuclear power and to negotiate much-needed economic concessions from a position of power.

Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea came to an end in 2019 due to disagreements over easing U.S.-led economic sanctions against North Korea in exchange for steps to phase out North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and missile programs. I’ve been out of touch since then.

A North Korean spokesperson said North Korea has no interest in contacting or dialogue with the United States as long as it maintains a “hostile policy and confrontational line,” adding that the United States will continue to maintain sanctions and military pressure on North Korea. accusing it of “forcing them to unilaterally disarm”. ”