(CNSNews.com) – North Korea accused the United States on Thursday of seeking to “ignite an all-out showdown” on the peninsula, where it said the military and political situation “has reached an extreme red-line.”
Pyongyang’s foreign ministry in a statement warned that the regime was ready to respond to any short or long-term challenges by the U.S. “and its vassal forces” – a reference to South Korea – “with the most overwhelming nuclear force.”
“The DPRK will take the toughest reaction to any military attempt of the U.S., on the principle of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation,’” it said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Stalinist state’s formal name.
The ministry also condemned expanding U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, criticized remarks made by visiting Defense Secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin, and ruled out any intention of entering into talks with the U.S., unless it changes its approach.
“The DPRK is not interested in any contact or dialogue with the U.S. as long as the latter persists in its hostile policy and confrontational line,” it said in the English-language statement, released through the state news agency KCNA.
The ministry said the U.S. touts offers of dialogue with the claim of having no hostile intent towards North Korea, even as it pursues “the most heinous hostile policy.”
Multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs go back decades. Most recently, Kim Jong Un and President Trump held three summits in 2018 and 2019, but the initiative stalled over differences about the lifting of U.S. sanctions and no progress has been reported since.
On the contrary, Kim last year abandoned a self-declared moratorium on long-range ballistic missile tests – first announced ahead of his first summit with Trump – and the regime conducted an unprecedented number of launches through 2022, including tests of ICBMs in March, May and November.
It also fired a medium-range missile over Japan, for the first time in five years, and U.S. officials voiced concern that the regime may be preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test. (The last one was in 2017.)
In Seoul on Tuesday, Austin declared that the U.S. stood firm in its “extended deterrence” commitment to South Korea, which he said “includes the full range of U.S. defense capabilities, including our conventional, nuclear, and missile defense capabilities.”
He also noted that advanced U.S. fighter jets and an aircraft carrier strike group have visited the peninsula, telling reporters “you can look for more of that kind of activity going forward.”
Austin stressed that the ultimate goal was “peace and not conflict.”
“And toward that end, our countries have worked side by side to deter large-scale conflict, to strengthen our combined capabilities, and to defend the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure,” he said.
The North Korean regime, however, focused on what it saw as threats in his comments.
It said Austin had “openly declared that the U.S. would deploy more strategic assets such as the fifth-generation stealth fighters and nuclear carriers, unhesitatingly talking about the use of nuclear weapons against the DPRK.”
“The military and political situation in the Korean peninsula and the region has reached an extreme red-line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces,” the ministry said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers and F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters took part in joint air drills with South Korean F-35 fighters, according to a statement by the South Korean defense ministry.
It said the exercise over the Yellow Sea “demonstrates the U.S. will and ability to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.”
“Extended deterrence” refers to the U.S. committing the projection of its full military capabilities, including nuclear assets, to deter threats against allies, who do not possess or host nuclear weapons on their own soil.
In December, U.S. B-52 bombers and F-22s carried out exercises with South Korean F-35 and F-15 fighters south of the peninsula.
U.S. Forces Korea said the stepped-up deployments of strategic bombers in the region were in line with an agreement reached by Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup during security talks in November, when they agreed “to employ U.S. strategic assets in a timely and coordinated manner with increased frequency and intensity.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told a forum on the U.S.-South Korea alliance in December that the U.S. “share[s] our allies’ concerns that security developments in East Asia and in the Indo-Pacific writ large necessitate a strengthening of U.S. extended deterrence.”
“We’re working in our alliances with both [South Korea] and Japan to develop an effective mix of tangible measures to this end, of specific practical steps we can take to strengthen the extended deterrence commitment,” he said. “That includes a more visible regional presence of U.S. strategic capabilities.”
The U.S. has 28,500 military personnel stationed in South Korea, a treaty ally since shortly after the Korean War ended in 1953.
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