North Korea denounced joint military exercises scheduled to start Monday between the U.S. and South Korea as “driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”
President Kim Jong Un’s regime slammed the annual drills while also vowing vowing that Guam, Hawaii and the U.S. mainland could not escape a “merciless strike,” CNN reported Sunday.
The saber-rattling rhetoric was the latest example of escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
“The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) … is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” an editorial in the official government newspaper Rodong Sinmun read.
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In another editorial, North Korea slammed the exercises scheduled to run until Aug. 31 as a dangerous provocation.
“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,” the editorial read, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
“If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else’s door far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever.”
Some 40,000 South Korean and U.S. troops are to participate on land, sea and air in the exercises called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian.
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North Korea has long criticized the exercises as hostile acts that raise the threat of an invasion.
The U.S. insists they are purely defensive.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said the exercises were planned before the latest escalation of tensions and that the focus of the drills were on integration between the two forces.
“The numbers are by design to achieve the exercise objectives and you always pick what you want to emphasize,” Mattis said. “Right now there is a heavy emphasis on command post operations.”
But Mattis has not backed down from the possibility of a military confrontation with North Korea.
“There are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” he said last week.
President Trump said earlier this month that North Korea faced “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continues its threats against America.
North Korea’s recent progress in developing nuclear weapons — as well as missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland — has ratcheted up tensions.
A confidential U.S. intelligence assessment recently determined North Korea had created a miniaturized nuclear warhead.
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