North Korea has warned of “powerful follow-up measures” in response to the largest joint air exercises between the militaries of South Korea and the United States in almost five years.
A spokesperson for North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs described the air drills on Tuesday as a “ceaseless and reckless” military provocation designed to prepare for attacks on North Korea, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The joint US-South Korea air exercises — dubbed “Vigilant Storm” — were in preparation “for aggression mainly aimed at striking the strategic targets of the DPRK”, the spokesperson was quoted as saying by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, according to Yonhap.
The DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“If the US continuously persists in the grave military provocations, the DPRK will take into account more powerful follow-up measures,” the spokesperson said.
Pyongyang was prepared and “ready to take all necessary measures for defending its sovereignty, people’s security and territorial integrity from outside military threats,” the official said, Yonhap reported.
(LEAD) N. Korea urges U.S. to stop joint air drills with S. Korea, warns of 'more powerful' actions https://t.co/GqNTFj1B3i
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) November 1, 2022
On Friday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan, the latest in a flurry of missile launches over the past several weeks that mark a worrying escalation in tension and demonstrate North Korea’s increasing willingness to flex its military muscle.
Pyongyang has also ramped up its rhetoric on nuclear weapons, recently adopting a nuclear doctrine that authorises preemptive nuclear attacks in loosely defined crisis situations.
Seoul and Washington have repeatedly warned that Pyongyang could be close to testing an atomic bomb for the first time since 2017.
Last week, the US, South Korea and Japan warned that an “unparalleled” response would be warranted if North Korea tests a nuclear weapon.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that Washington will not recognise North Korea as a nuclear-armed state and the US policy remained the “completed denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
“We continue to reach out to the DRPK and are committed to pursuing a diplomatic approach,” Price said on Monday.
“We of course would like to see the DPRK engage in serious, substantial dialogue on this. Up until now they have not done so. We have made clear, we don’t have preconditions to dialogue, it sounds like the DPRK may be in a different position,” he said.
Pyongyang’s warning of a “powerful” response on Tuesday comes as more than 240 US and South Korean aircraft participate in the Vigilant Storm air exercises, which began on Monday and continue until Friday.
The US has deployed approximately 100 aircraft to the exercises, according to Yonhap, including four advanced F-35B stealth fighters from the US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron based in Japan, as well as EA-18 electronic warfare aircraft, KC-135 tankers and U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
#MarineCorps F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 land at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, for Exercise Vigilant Storm 23, Oct. 31#VigilantStorm enhances combat readiness and strengthens the ROK-U.S. Alliance. #CombinedForce #USMC #military pic.twitter.com/5uIYQkeQoR
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) October 31, 2022
South Korea has deployed 140 aircraft for the drills, including F-35A stealth fighters as well as F-15K and KF-16 fighters.
The South Korean military also recently completed the 12-day “Hoguk” military field exercises that are held annually and involve US troops.