Kim Jong-un’s sister warned on Tuesday that it would be a “clear declaration of war” if North Korean missiles were shot down during their test launches over the Pacific.
The United States and South Korea have stepped up defense cooperation in the face of the rising threat from nuclear-armed Pyongyang, which has conducted a spate of weapons tests in recent months.
North Korea has said its nuclear and missile programs are for self-defense, and has opposed the military exercises between the US and South Korea, describing them as rehearsals for an invasion.
“It will be considered as a clear declaration of war against the DPRK, in case there is any military response such as interception against our testing of strategic weapons,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement, using North Korea’s official name. .
“The Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominion of the US or Japan.”
This photo, provided by the North Korean government, shows the test firing of what is said to be a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile
Image published by KCNA shows a strategic cruise missile launch exercise at dawn in Kim Chaek city, North Hamgyong province, North Korea, 23 February 2023
Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister, warned that any attempt to intercept missile tests by the US or South Korea would be considered an act of war.
North Korea is “always ready to take appropriate, swift and overwhelming action at any time,” she added in her statement published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
This month, the US and South Korean armies will hold their largest joint exercises in five years.
Ahead of those exercises, dubbed Freedom Shield and scheduled for at least 10 days from March 13, the Allies held air exercises this week with a US nuclear-capable B-52 heavy bomber.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, the North Korean foreign ministry accused the United States of “deliberately” escalating tensions.
“The recent joint air exercise … clearly demonstrates that the US plan to use nuclear weapons against the DPRK is being carried out at the level of an actual war,” it said in a statement published by KCNA.
“We deeply regret the irresponsible and worrying muscle flexing of the US and South Korea.”
Last year, Pyongyang declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power and fired a record number of missiles.
Kim Jong-un recently called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a party rally in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 1, 2023
An RC-12X Guardrail surveillance aircraft lands at U.S. Army Camp Humphreys base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on March 6, 2023, as South Korea and the United States began a four-day crisis management exercise
Colonel Isaac Taylor (left) of the United Nations Command (UNC), Combined Forces Command (CFC) and United States Forces Korea (USFK), stands next to Colonel Lee Sung-jun of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff during a press conference about the 2023 Freedom Shield exercises
North Korea has framed its missile tests and military exercises as justifiable countermeasures following the exercises between the US and South Korea.
Last week it called on the United Nations to push for a halt to these exercises, reiterating that its nuclear weapons ensured the balance of power in the region.
South Korea is eager to reassure its increasingly nervous public about the US’s commitment to so-called comprehensive deterrence, using US military assets, including nuclear weapons, to prevent attacks on allies.
Last month, a table-top exercise between the US and South Korea at the Pentagon focused on responses to a nuclear strike by North Korea.
Pyongyang responded to that exercise by firing cruise missiles, claiming that the stepped-up exercises between the US and South Korea “could be considered a declaration of war.”