This photo, released by North Korean state media, shows what Pyongyang claimed to be an exercise launching a ballistic missile with a dummy tactical nuke on board from a reservoir on Sept. 25. (KCNA/Yonhap)
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry described Vigilant Storm, the joint air exercises between the US and South Korea running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, as a “war drill for aggression.” Some 240 military aircraft from the two countries took part in the drill on Tuesday, the largest number to ever participate.
North Korea said that “if the US continuously persists in the grave military provocations,” it will consider “more powerful follow-up measures.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification urged North Korea to “stop its provocations and respond to the audacious initiative” proposed by President Yoon Suk-yeol.
The spokesperson of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the situation on the Korean Peninsula “has entered the serious confrontation phase of power for power.”
“The situation [on] the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity has entered the serious confrontation phase of power for power again due to the ceaseless and reckless military moves of the US and South Korea,” the spokesperson said.
“Owing to the large-scale war exercises staged by the US and its vassal forces almost every day this year, the Korean Peninsula remains the hotspot with the most serious military tensions in the world.”
“All the facts clearly show that the US nuclear war scenario against [North Korea] has entered the final stage.”
“[North Korea] is ready to take all necessary measures for defending its sovereignty, people's security and territorial integrity from outside military threats.”
“If the US does not want any serious developments not suited to its security interests, it should stop the useless and ineffective war exercises at once.”
North Korea’s remarks suggest that unless the US stops its large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea, the North could embark on strategic military action that could gravely impact the situation on the Korean Peninsula, such as launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or carrying out a seventh nuclear weapon test.
North Korea has elevated the crisis level on the Korean Peninsula by launching missiles on a total of 10 occasions between Sept. 25 and Oct. 28.
“For the US to describe [North Korea’s] self-defensive military counteraction as an act of escalating the tensions is very absurd and [. . .] is just like a guilty party filing the suit first [. . .] because the US is staging such war exercises for aggression as the large-scale landing drill and ‘decapitation’ of the leadership aimed at occupying the territory and [center] of the [opposing] party,” the North Korean statement said.
An official from South Korea’s Ministry of Unification responded to the statement in a meeting with reporters.
“While North Korea is falsely attributing heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula to our yearly defensive exercises, our government makes clear that the current circumstances are due to North Korea’s rash development of nuclear weapons and missiles. We call on North Korea to stop its provocations and respond to the audacious initiative that we have proposed,” the official said.
The “audacious initiative” refers to the Yoon administration’s pledge to provide North Korea with economic support as soon as it joins denuclearization talks.
“The Yoon administration shouldn’t forget that the public prefers safe peaceful measures to brave military measures. At this moment, we need to redouble our efforts to resolve this issue through dialogue,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.
By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer
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