N. Korea warns of ‘overwhelming nuclear force’ to counter US

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea mentioned Thursday it’s ready to counter U.S. army strikes with the “most overwhelming nuclear pressure” because it warned that the growth of america’ army workouts with rival South Korea is pushing tensions to an “excessive crimson line.”

The assertion by Pyongyang’s Overseas Ministry got here in response to feedback by U.S. Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin, who mentioned Tuesday in Seoul that america would improve its deployment of superior army property to the Korean Peninsula, together with fighter jets and plane carriers, because it strengthens joint coaching and operational planning with South Korea.

South Korea’s safety jitters have risen since North Korea test-fired dozens of missiles in 2022, together with probably nuclear-capable ones designed to strike targets in South Korea and the U.S. mainland.

In a press release attributed to an unidentified spokesperson of its Overseas Ministry, North Korea mentioned the growth of the allies’ drills is threatening to show the Korean Peninsula right into a “enormous battle arsenal and a extra essential battle zone.” The assertion mentioned the North is ready to counter any short- or long-term army problem with the “most overwhelming nuclear pressure.”

“The army and political scenario on the Korean Peninsula and within the area has reached an excessive crimson line as a result of reckless army confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces,” the spokesperson mentioned.

North Korea for many years has described america’ mixed army workouts with South Korea as rehearsals for a possible invasion, though the allies have described these drills as defensive.

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South Korea’s Protection Ministry mentioned america flew B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets in an train Wednesday with South Korean fighters above South Korea’s western waters. The USA and South Korea are additionally planning to a joint simulation this month geared toward sharpening their response if North Korea makes use of nuclear weapons.

The North Korean assertion portends one other provocative run in weapons demonstrations in 2023, just like how the North ramped up its personal weapons launches in 2022 because the allies resumed their large-scale coaching. North Korea’s actions included a slew of missile and artillery launches that it described as simulated nuclear assaults on South Korean and U.S. targets.

“DPRK will take the hardest response to any army try of the U.S. on the precept of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation!’” the North Korean spokesperson mentioned, invoking the nation’s formal identify, the Democratic Individuals’s Republic of Korea.

“If the U.S. continues to introduce strategic property into the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding space, the DPRK will make clearer its deterring actions with out fail based on their nature,” the spokesperson mentioned.

When requested in regards to the North Korean assertion within the Philippines on Thursday, Austin mentioned america is “very severe” about its dedication to defending South Korea and can proceed to work alongside its allies and “prepare and be certain that we keep credible and prepared forces.”

Ahn Eunju, spokesperson of South Korea’s Overseas Ministry, mentioned North Korea’s growth of its nuclear weapons and missile program and verbal threats of preemptive nuclear assaults have compelled Seoul to react sternly to make sure the safety of its residents.

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“North Korea is the one which’s elevating tensions on the Korean Peninsula by rejecting dialogue affords from South Korea and america and making nuclear and missile provocations and threats,” she mentioned, urging Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks.

Jeon Ha Gyu, spokesperson of South Korea’s Protection Ministry, mentioned the allies’ newest aerial drills have been geared toward demonstrating the credibility of the U.S. “prolonged deterrence,” referring to a dedication to make use of the complete vary of its army capabilities, together with nuclear ones, to defend South Korea. He declined to disclose the precise variety of U.S. and South Korean plane concerned within the train.

In a information convention following their assembly on Tuesday, Austin mentioned he and South Korean Protection Minister Lee Jong-Sup agreed to additional broaden their mixed army workouts, together with extra live-fire demonstrations. They pledged to proceed a “well timed and coordinated” deployment of U.S. strategic property to the area.

The allies had beforehand downsized their coaching in recent times to create room for diplomacy with North Korea in the course of the Trump administration and due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korea and america have additionally been strengthening their safety cooperation with Japan, which lately included trilateral missile protection and anti-submarine warfare workouts throughout a provocative run in North Korean weapons checks.

“We deployed fifth-generation plane, F-22s and F-35s, we deployed a provider strike group to go to the peninsula. You’ll be able to search for extra of that sort of exercise going ahead,” Austin mentioned.

Tensions might additional rise with North Korean chief Kim Jong Un doubling down on his nuclear ambitions.

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Throughout a political convention in December, Kim referred to as for an “exponential improve” in nuclear warheads, mass manufacturing of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons focusing on South Korea, and the event of extra highly effective long-range missiles designed to achieve the U.S. mainland.

Kim might showcase his rising arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles subsequent week as business satellite tv for pc pictures point out preparations for an enormous army parade in capital Pyongyang, seemingly for the seventy fifth founding anniversary of its military that falls on Feb. 8.

Specialists say Kim’s nuclear push is geared toward forcing america to simply accept the concept of North Korea as a nuclear energy so it could negotiate badly wanted financial concessions from a place of power. Nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea stopped in 2019 due to disagreements over a rest of U.S.-led financial sanctions in opposition to the North in change for steps by North Korea to wind down its nuclear weapons and missiles applications.

The North Korean spokesperson mentioned Pyongyang isn’t interested by any contact or dialogue with america so long as it maintains its “hostile coverage and confrontational line,” saying Washington is attempting to pressure Pyongyang to “disarm itself unilaterally.”


AP author Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to the story.