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WASHINGTON – North Korea has all but rejected negotiations to lessen tensions on the Korean Peninsula, saying that “durable peace can be achieved only through sacred war.”
A North Korean statement refers to ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that are scheduled to continue until the end of April.
“The South Korea-U.S. military drill, now under way in South Korea, is a revelation of the U.S. policy for aggression on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the South Korean puppets’ deep-rooted ambition for northward invasion,” the statement said.
Whether bluster or a real threat, a North Korean statement added that if the U.S. and South Korean “war maniacs finally ignite an anti-DPRK war, we will smash provokers with merciless nuclear strike.”
The annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises over the years have been associated with a period of belligerent rhetoric from North Korea. This year, however, the tone and pitch has approached the point of brinkmanship, with Pyongyang claiming that the exercises indicate intentions for a nuclear attack on the DPRK.
“Over the past 60 years, they have ceaselessly staged in South Korea exercises for pre-emptive nuclear strike at the DPRK, with U.S. nuclear-powered carriers and latest nuclear war equipment involved,” the statement said.
Pyongyang apparently was referring to the B-52s that flew from Guam and the B-2 bombers that staged inert bombing runs in South Korea just 50 miles from the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.
The B-52s and B-2 bombers are capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This particular use of the bombers provoked North Korea to claim that the U.S. intended to wage a nuclear against North Korea.
Pyongyang insists that the exercise “envisages precision attack at strategic bases, dismantlement of nukes and landing and surprise attack operation.”
“They dared work out a scenario to hurt the dignity of the DPRK supreme leadership,” the statement said.
“It is as clear as noonday that all military exercises, conducted by the U.S. and the South Korean warmongers under the signboard of ‘defense’ and ‘annual event,’ are only for pre-emptive nuclear attack on the DPRK.”
Quoting Ji Ho Chol, an officer of the North Korean military, the DPRK statement added that the U.S. and South Korea “have driven the situation on the Korean Peninsula to an extreme pitch.”
“There is a limit to our patience,” the officer said. “Durable peace can be achieved only through a sacred war. If the U.S. and South Koran war maniacs finally ignite an anti-DPRK war, we will smash provokers with merciless nuclear strike.”
The fact that the DPRK statement quoted an officer making such a threatening statement strongly indicates that it reflects the official North Korean position.
With the joint military exercise expected to continue to the end of April, there is concern that any event could raise an already tense situation into a shooting war.
North Korea, however, didn’t undertake the anticipated missile launch on the occasion of commemorating the 101st anniversary of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader, 29-year-old Kim Jong Un.
Analysts say, nevertheless, that such a launch in further defiance of United Nations sanctions could occur at any time.
One concern is that a test missile launch of North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missile could take a flight path over Japan, whose officials already have promised to shoot it down.
Analysts believe that such a development could provoke a further military response from Pyongyang, which has stated that Tokyo would be the first target in any all-out war due to the presence of U.S. military bases and forces there.
In response, Tokyo has deployed its own Aegis anti-ballistic missile ships in addition to U.S. Aegis destroyers that have arrived in the region between Japan and North Korea in the Sea of Japan.
In addition, Japan has deployed U.S.-made Patriot missiles in and around Tokyo as a second line of defense.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on a recent visit to Asia met with officials in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing and proposed direct talks with North Korea. However, Pyongyang’s latest comments may have all but ruled out that prospect.
Instead, North Korea sees the continued U.S.-South Korean military exercises as a threat to its survival.
“Existence and development of the Korean nation are now seriously threatened by the U.S. policy to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula at any cost,” the DPRK said.
“The U.S. and South Korean warmongers conduct joint military drills on an annual basis by activating hundreds of thousands of troops and latest offensive means,” the statement said.
“However, those drills have not been led to the actual war thanks to the strong war deterrence of the DPRK capable of decisively shattering any military provocation of the aggression forces.”
The DPRK said that its nuclear weapons are “not a political bargaining chip” but are a deterrence to any perceived designs the U.S. and South Korea may have in launching an attack.
Kim Jong Un also has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S.
North Korea is assessed to have some eight to 12 stockpiled nuclear weapons and now is believed by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency to have the capability to launch a nuclear weapon on a missile, based on a February nuclear bomb test for miniaturization.
However, this assessment is not shared by the White House or the U.S. State Department.