North Korea threatened on Tuesday that it would be a “clear declaration of war” if its missiles were shot down during its test launches over the Pacific Ocean.
In response to escalating threats from Pyongyang, which has nuclear weapons and has conducted a slew of prohibited weapons tests recently, the United States and South Korea have increased defense cooperation, including joint exercises.
North Korea has claimed that its nuclear and missile programs are for self-defense, and it has reacted angrily to US-South Korean military drills by branding them as invasion drills.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, used North Korea’s official name in a statement: “It will be regarded as a blatant declaration of war against the DPRK, in case such military retaliation as interception takes place against our testing of strategic weapon.”
“The Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominium of the U.S. or Japan.”
North Korea is “always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time”, added her statement, published by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The US and South Korean forces will conduct their largest combined exercises in the past five years this month.
The allies conducted air drills this week using a nuclear-capable American B-52 heavy bomber in advance of those exercises, known as Freedom Shield and slated to last for at least 10 days beginning March 13.
Tuesday saw a different statement from North Korea’s foreign ministry accusing the US of “intentionally” escalating tensions.
The US plan to use nuclear weapons against the DPRK is being taken out at the level of an actual war, it was claimed in a statement published by KCNA. “The recent joint air drill…clearly indicates that,” it stated.
In response to US-South Korean military exercises, North Korea has defended its missile testing and military exercises.
It reaffirmed last week that its nuclear weapons preserved the balance of power in the region and urged the United Nations to call an end to these drills.
Regarding the American commitment to so-called extended deterrence, whereby US military resources, including nuclear weapons, serve to avert assaults on allies, South Korea is eager to assuage its growingly uneasy population.