North Korea Warns US-South Korea "Maneuvers" Are "Driving [World] Towards Nuclear Disaster"
Update: North Korea warned Monday that U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which it called "the most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers," are driving the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward "nuclear disaster." The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. is using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the joint exercises that began Wednesday. "It may go over to an actual war," Ja warned of the military drills, "and, consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war."
"Involved in the drill were Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency," the North's official KCNA news agency said.
"In the hearts of artillerymen ... there was burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises," KCNA said.
"He (Kim) ordered the KPA Strategic Force to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out any time, and get fully ready to promptly move, take positions and strike so that it can open fire to annihilate the enemies."
The letter was sent a few hours after North Korea fired four banned ballistic missiles. Ja said the main reason North Korea is equipping itself "with nuclear attack capabilities" and strengthening its nuclear deterrent forces is in self-defense against what he called the U.S. "extreme anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmails as well as maneuvers to enforce its nuclear weapons."
The drill was conducted by Hwasong artillery units of its Strategic Force, "tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggression forces in Japan," the Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) said.
AFP clarifies the intent of the test: North Korea says yesterday's missile launch was training exercise for strike on US bases in Japan
The drill was carried out by units of the KPA Strategic Force, state-controlled media outlet KCNA reported. The report didn’t indicate if any of the rockets were ICBMs.
Reuters additionally reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the ballistic missile launch personally (though scientists and technicians in the nuclear weapons and rocket research fields were among those attending the launch).
The test launches comes just days after an internal White House strategy review on North Korean options reportedly included the possibility of both military force and regime change to counter the country’s nuclear-weapons threat, the WSJ reports, a prospect that has some U.S. allies in the region on edge.
As AP reports, North Korea's latest volley of missile tests has added to pressure on a preoccupied Trump administration to identify how it will counter leader Kim Jong Un's weapons development. North Korea's march toward having a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland is among the pressing national security priorities President Donald Trump faces. He has vowed it "won't happen" but has yet to articulate a strategy to stop it. A wide array of options are on the table, but aggressive behavior by Pyongyang in response to U.S.-South Korean military drills that began last week could further shrink chances for diplomatic engagement. Upheaval in the administration has added to uncertainty in foreign capitals about how a new president lacking experience in government would handle a security crisis should one unfold.
The United States and Japan have requested a United Nations Security Council meeting on the launches,according to Reuters, which will likely be scheduled for Wednesday, diplomats said. The U.S. military on Monday left open the possibility of additional launch attempts.
"There were four that landed. There may be a higher number of launches that we're not commenting on. But four landed and splashed in the Sea of Japan," Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told a news briefing.
Condemning the launches as further "provocative behavior," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters the United States was taking steps to enhance defense against ballistic missiles, including deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea. South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn said Seoul would swiftly deploy the anti-missile system despite angry objections from China. A U.S. official said the system could be installed far earlier than an original fall target date.
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So far no tweets from Trump on this as the sabre-rattling is getting very loud.