North Korea threatens ‘unprecedented’ action over allied military drills

North Korea has responded to war exercises between the US and South Korea with missile launches and threats of a nuclear test. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL – North Korea threatened on Friday to take “unprecedentedly constant, strong responses” if South Korea and the United States press ahead with planned military drills, accusing the allies of raising tensions in the region.

In a statement carried by state media KCNA, the North’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of stoking tension and using the United Nations Security Council as “a tool for illegal hostile policy” to pressure Pyongyang.

North Korea has “refrained from any special military action” in 2023, except for regular activities, but the allies’ scheduled drills would create a “grave vortex of escalating tension”, the ministry said.

“If it is the US’ option to show its muscle and counter everything with muscle, the same is true of the DPRK’s option,” it said, using the acronym of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“In case the US and South Korea carry into practice their already-announced plan for military drills, which the DPRK... regards as preparations for an aggression war, they will face unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions,” the ministry said.

It also warned that if the UN Security Council continues to be “inveigled” by Washington, it would reconsider additional actions beyond normal military activities, without elaborating.

The statement came as South Korea and the US gear up for annual military exercises as part of their efforts to better counter North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.

The allies will stage tabletop exercises in Washington next week aimed at improving operations of American nuclear assets and hold the regular springtime Freedom Shield drills in March in South Korea, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said on Friday.

Nuclear-armed North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles in 2022, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike anywhere in the US, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.

The nuclear drills by the US and South Korea, called the Deterrence Strategy Committee Tabletop Exercise, are scheduled for next Wednesday at the Pentagon and will involve senior defence policymakers from both sides, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said.

It would be their first such drills since both sides agreed in 2022 to hold them annually, with Seoul seeking to bolster confidence in the US’ extended deterrence – its military capability, especially nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies.

On Feb 23, the officials will visit the Kings Bay naval base in Georgia that houses key nuclear submarines.

“With a focus on North Korea’s nuclear threats, both sides will have in-depth discussions on various measures to strengthen US extended deterrence, including information sharing and consultation procedures,” the ministry said in a statement.

Separately, the springtime Freedom Shield field training will start in mid-March in South Korea for an 11-day run. REUTERS

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