North Korea warns of second Korean War on armistice anniversary

A televised North Korean news report of its new guided weapon test, at a railway station in Seoul, on April 17, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - North Korea used the anniversary of the armistice that halted fighting on the peninsula 69 years ago to warn of a "second Korean War," blaming the US and South Korea for inflaming hostilities.

"The joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, which are being carried out with a thick gunpowder smell, are exacerbating the situation on the Korean Peninsula," North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement, calling the two a "horde of belligerents wanting the wretchedness of war."

The US and South Korea held joint military exercises this month that included AH-64E Apache helicopters and F-35A stealth fighter jets.

The North Korean statement so far has only been offered on the ministry's website and not on its official media, indicating it might be for the domestic audience.

North Korea for decades has called joint drills a prelude to invasion and said in the statement the current ones may "spread into the second Korean War."

The statement that coincided with the July 27 signing of the armistice agreement among US-led United Nations forces, North Korea and China that brought a cease-fire to the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Even though it ended in a stalemate, North Korea celebrates the day as a "Victory in the Fatherland."

The US for years has indicated if North Korea wants a formal peace treaty and diplomatic relations, it must wind down its nuclear arms programme.

South Korea and the US have warned that North Korea looks set to soon test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017 - which would be its seventh test overall.

Any display of the weapons in Mr Kim Jong Un's nuclear arsenal would serve as a reminder of the pressing security problems posed by Pyongyang that have simmered as US President Joe Biden's administration has been focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The US push to isolate Russia over the war, coupled with increasing animosity toward China, has allowed Mr Kim to strengthen his nuclear deterrent without fear of facing more sanctions at the UN Security Council.

There's almost no chance Russia or China, which have veto power at the council, would support any measures against North Korea, as they did in 2017 following a series of weapons tests that prompted former US President Donald Trump to warn of "fire and fury."

Meanwhile, Mr Kim has not made any new appearances in state media for 17 days, which is longest time out of the public eye since November of last year, according to specialist service NK News.

Outside observers will be looking to see if he shows up for festivities Wednesday (July 27) to mark the war's end.

Mr Kim often drops out of the public eye in the summer for stays at his palatial coastal mansion and mega yacht.

But any prolonged absence raises questions about the health of the 38-year-old, whose longest time out of the public eye as leader was six weeks in 2014.

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