SEOUL • Any move by the United States to place new ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in South Korea could spark a "new Cold War" and an escalating arms race in the region, North Korean state media said yesterday.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper earlier this month said he was in favour of placing ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in Asia, a day after the US withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia.
North Korea's state news agency KCNA said: "The US pointed out that it is now examining a plan for deploying ground-to-ground medium-range missiles in the Asian region, and South Korea has been singled out as a place for the deployment."
"It is a reckless act of escalating regional tension, an act that may spark off a new Cold War and arms race in the Far Eastern region to deploy a new offensive weapon in South Korea," it added in its commentary.
Other senior US officials have said any deployment of such weaponry would be years away.
South Korea's Defence Ministry has said there had been no discussion of placing American intermediate-range missiles in the country, and there were no plans to consider the idea.
The KCNA statement also criticised recent moves to improve military sites in South Korea that host US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) systems, which are designed to intercept ballistic missiles.
"It is a hard fact that the deployment of Thaad is pursuant to the US strategy to contain great powers and hold supremacy in North-east Asia, not the one for 'shielding' South Korea from someone's 'threat'," KCNA said.
The North's military has launched a series of missiles in recent weeks to protest against what it sees as a military buildup in South Korea, as well as joint military exercises by South Korean and US troops stationed on the peninsula.
The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between the US and North Korea over the future of the isolated country's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which prompted sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.