North Korea has said that any move to intercept and shoot down its test missiles would be considered “a declaration of war”.
The statement on Tuesday by Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, cited a South Korean media report that said the United States planned to shoot down Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) if the weapons were test-launched towards the Pacific Ocean.
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The US and its allies have never shot down North Korean ballistic missiles — typically launched at steep angles to avoid neighbouring countries — but the question has drawn new scrutiny since Pyongyang suggested it would fire more missiles over Japan.
Kim Yo Jong said Pyongyang would see any US military action against its strategic weapons tests as a “declaration of war”.
“The Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominion of the US or Japan,” she said.
The US deployed a B-52 bomber for a joint drill with South Korean fighter jets on Monday in what South Korea’s defence ministry said was a show of force against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
The US and South Korean militaries are also preparing to revive their largest exercises later this month.
The field training exercises, known as Warrior Shield FTX, will include amphibious landings and run alongside the Freedom Shield exercise, a computer-simulated command post training aimed at strengthening defence and response capabilities.
Kim Yo Jong warned on Tuesday that North Korea was ready to take “overwhelming” actions against the drills.
“We keep our eye on the restless military moves by the US forces and the South Korean puppet military and are always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time according to our judgment,” she said.
Kim Yo Jong has repeatedly warned against increased US presence on the Korean peninsula, saying last month that “the frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon” Washington’s troops.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the flyover of the US B-52 bomber a reckless provocation that pushes the situation on the peninsula “deeper into the bottomless quagmire”.
The statement, attributed to the unnamed head of the ministry’s foreign news office, said “there is no guarantee that there will be no violent physical conflict” if US-South Korean military provocations continue.
Approximately 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the countries technically at war.