Seoul: North Korea said on Thursday it will take the “toughest reaction” to the US’ move to expand joint military exercises with South Korea.
The North’s warning came US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Seoul earlier this week for talks with his South Korean counterpart and said there would be more deployments of strategic assets, including F-22 and F-35 jets, to Seoul in order to deter Pyongyang’s evolving military threats, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry claimed the US has been driving the security situation on the Korean Peninsula toward an “extreme red-line” and is pushing to spur further tensions through joint military drills of larger scale and scope with South Korea.
“This is a vivid expression of the US dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean Peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone,” the Ministry said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea will “take the toughest reaction” to any military action by the US under the principle of “nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation”, it added.
The North said it is ready to counter any military challenges from the US with the “most overwhelming nuclear force,” while stressing it is not interested in any dialogue with Washington as long as the latter pursues a “hostile policy”.
Earlier on Thursday, South Korea and the US staged combined air drills, involving B-1B strategic bombers, as well as F-22 and F-35B stealth fighters, from the US Air Force, in a show of Washington’s “will and capabilities” to provide credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s military threats.
North Korea launched around 70 ballistic missiles last year alone, the most in a single year, amid persistent speculation it may conduct a nuclear test in the near future.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-un called for an “exponential” increase in its nuclear arsenal and the need to mass-produce tactical nuclear weapons at a key party meeting held late last year.
North Korea is likely to hold a military parade on February 8 to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its armed forces.
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