North Korea has warned the United States and South Korea against holding a planned joint military drill in the region amid the current high tensions.
North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned Washington and Seoul that conducting the war games next week would be like “pouring gasoline on fire,” media reported on Sunday.
“The joint exercise is the most explicit expression of hostility against us, and no one can guarantee that the exercise won’t evolve into actual fighting,” read an editorial carried by the newspaper.
The US and South Korea are set to launch the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint military drill in South Korea on Monday. The drill, which involves tens of thousands of troops from the two countries, is viewed by Pyongyang as a threatening act of hostility and also as a rehearsal for a military invasion.
“The Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises will be like pouring gasoline on fire and worsen the state of the peninsula,” the editorial warned.
Meanwhile, the chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday threatened North Korea with merciless retaliation if it launched an attack on the South.
“If the enemy provokes, [our military] will retaliate resolutely and strongly to make it regret bitterly,” said General Jeong Kyeong-Doo in his inauguration speech.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula started surging earlier this month after Pyongyang twice successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of targeting US mainland.
US President Donald Trump lashed out at Pyongyang by threatening it with “fire, fury … the likes of which this world has never seen.”
Pyongyang in response said that it would launch missiles into the waters near the US Pacific island of Guam, where US military troops are stationed and some 160,000 US citizens live.
Last week, however, North Korea, which is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs, “postponed” the move.
The US is opposed to the North Korean missile and military nuclear programs. Pyongyang says it needs them as a deterrent against US hostility.