North Korea has accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions “to the brink of nuclear war” through their joint military drills and promised to respond with “offensive action,” according to state media KCNA.
A commentary published by KCNA on Thursday criticised the continuing exercises as “a trigger for driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the point of explosion.”
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Attributed to Choe Ju Hyon, an international security analyst, the article added: “The reckless military confrontational hysteria of the US and its followers against the DPRK is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to an irreversible catastrophe … to the brink of a nuclear war.”
DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea.
“Now the international community unanimously hopes that the dark clouds of a nuclear war hanging over the Korean peninsula will be removed as early as possible,” it added.
US and South Korean forces have been conducting a series of annual springtime exercises since March, including air and sea drills involving a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as well as B-1B and B-52 bombers, and their first large-scale amphibious landing drills in five years. On Wednesday, B52s were deployed for their first use on the peninsula in a month.
The commentary singled out the involvement of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier as aimed at stoking confrontation, saying Pyongyang will respond to the drills by exercising its war deterrence through “offensive action”.
“The drills have turned the Korean peninsula into a huge powder magazine which can be detonated any moment,” it added.
North Korea views such exercises as a rehearsal for invasion.
Pyongyang carried out a record number of weapons tests last year and has been ramping up its military activity in recent weeks. It has unveiled new, smaller nuclear warheads, fired its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missile – the Hwasong 17 – and tested a nuclear-capable underwater drone that is under development. It also fired cruise missiles from a submarine.
In a separate KCNA article, Han Tae Song, the permanent representative of North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, strongly condemned an annual resolution adopted this week by the United Nations Human Rights Council on the country’s rights situation.
The resolution, adopted without a vote, included the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea by a year.
Han called the resolution an “intolerable act of political provocation and hostility” and “the most heavily politicised document of fraud.”
A landmark 2014 UN report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim Jong Un – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities. The US sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.