North Korea on Wednesday said that its recent weapon tests are a warning to South Korea’s “warmongers” who are raising tension on the peninsula.
“Our military actions will be an opportunity to send an accurate warning on the joint military exercise the US and South have begun,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying by the North’s Rodong Sinmun.
The message comes a day after North Korea fired what it calls a newly developed guided bomb. Tuesday’s launch was the fourth time it has fired projectiles in a span of two weeks.
The North has branded the South Korea-US joint military exercise that began on Monday as “military hostilities” that violate inter-Korean and US-North Korea agreements.
The news outlet also accused Seoul of duplicity citing ongoing projects to boost military capabilities.
On Tuesday, the North’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Pyongyang would be forced to “seek a new path” should Seoul and Washington continue to provoke the regime.
The North’s projectiles and accusations have been met with relative caution from South Korea and the US. The two allies consider at least some of the projectiles to be short-range missiles, but have stopped short of accusing the Pyongyang of violating agreements.
US President Donald Trump has again downplayed the significance of the projectiles. However, US national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday said that Trump is monitoring the situation “very carefully.”
“The president and Kim Jong-un have an understanding that he will not launch longer range, intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and so I think the president is watching this very, very carefully,” Bolton said speaking on a US television network.
Regarding the controversy over possible deployment of intermediate-range missiles in Asia, Bolton said that the move would be aimed at defending US forces, and allies including South Korea and Japan.
“They were not part of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. So they are free to do what they want. That’s one reason President Trump withdrew from the treaty,” Bolton said, referring to China.
The US pulled out of the treaty on Aug. 2.
“It’s China that has built up its military forces and posed a threat,” he noted.
The controversy was sparked on Friday when US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper commented that the US would like to deploy such weapon systems in Asia within months.
However, Esper has since said that the US has not made any related requests to Asian allies.
“I have never asked anybody about the deployment of missiles in Asia,” Esper was quoted as saying by Bloomberg on Tuesday en route to Japan. Esper is on a tour of South Korea, Australia and Japan. He is set to arrive in Korea on Friday.
“We are quite some ways away from that. It’s going to take, again, a few years to actually have some type of initial operational-capable missiles, whether they are ballistic, cruise -- you name it, to be able to deploy.
Although the specifics were not mentioned in Esper's earlier comment South Korea and Japan have been cited as possible candidate locations. Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense has since denied related reports, saying that no official discussions have taken place. Esper is due in Seoul Friday as part of his Pacific tour.
His remarks have prompted strong protests from China and Russia.
On Tuesday, Fu Cong, a Chinese arms control official, issued a statement urging restraint by the US in deploying missiles in Asia. The official also warned that Beijing will not stand by idly and that there will be consequences for countries that host US missiles.
A Russian official went a step further, claiming that hosting US missiles would make the country a target in the event of military conflict.
“Those who deploy missiles automatically and willingly will become a nuclear target within several minutes of flight time,” Konstantin Kosachev, chair of Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Tass.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org