February 3, 2023
SEOUL – North Korea on Thursday said the US would face the “toughest” response if Washington pushes to conduct larger-scale field training exercises with Seoul, threatening that it would not engage in talks if such moves go forward.
The statement delivered through its Foreign Ministry came two days after the South Korean and US defense chiefs agreed on steps, including bolstering combined military exercises to enhance the alliance’s deterrence and readiness posture. The US also pledged to increase the deployment of its strategic weapons and advanced stealth fighter jets to the Korean Peninsula.
As part of their efforts, the allies staged an air combat exercise involving the US Air Force’s two B-1B strategic bombers and F-22 and F-35B stealth fighter aircraft over the west coast of South Korea on Wednesday.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry denounced the US and its allies for having driven the regional situation to reach an extremely dangerous tipping point, clarifying the country’s “principled stance on the US.”
“First, the DPRK will take the toughest reaction to any military attempt of the US on the principle of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation,’” an English-language press statement read, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Second, the DPRK is not interested in any contact or dialogue with the US as long as it pursues its hostile policy and confrontational line.”
While vowing to respond with the “most overwhelming nuclear force,” North Korea also claimed it has a clear counterstrategy to deal with any short- or long-term plans by the US and its allies, which it labeled as “vassals.”
“The more dangerous the US threat to the DPRK gets, the stronger backfire the US will face in direct proportion to it,” the Foreign Ministry said.
North Korea’s statement on Thursday reaffirmed its existing position of tit-for-tat military actions corresponding to the scale and level of South Korea-US military exercises, said Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, also said the statement is aimed at underscoring that the US is entirely responsible for having aggravated the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Yang forecast that North Korea would focus on internal issues until the army anniversary and continue propaganda campaigns by issuing statements on pending issues, including US military support for Ukraine and the alliance’s move to enhance nuclear-deterrence efforts. The South Korean military has braced for the possibility of North Korea holding a large-scale military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its Korean People’s Army on Feb. 8.
“North Korea is likely to concentrate on developing strategic and tactical nuclear weapons and conduct tests from February or March in light of its track record that the country has put its pronouncements into action after publishing a series of statements,” Yang said, adding that upcoming events for the two Koreas suggest “tensions on the Korean Peninsula will reach a peak.”
Both Seoul and Washington immediately refuted the North’s accusations, urging the country to respond to their repeated overtures of dialogue.
“The government has the responsibility to decisively respond to protect the safety of our people at a juncture where North Korea has advanced its nuclear and missile capabilities and even threatens to launch preemptive nuclear attacks,” South Korean Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ahn Eun-ju said in a regular press briefing.
“North Korea is the one which has heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula by posing nuclear and missile threats while rejecting offers by South Korea and the US to hold talks.”
The White House on Wednesday reiterated its intention to sit down with North Korean representatives to “address the full range of issues of concern to both countries and the region.”