On Tuesday, Kim Jong Un’s sister issued a warning that shooting down North Korean missiles during their test launches over the Pacific Ocean would be considered a “clear declaration of war.”
North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in recent months, and the United States and South Korea have increased defense cooperation in response to growing threats from Pyongyang.
North Korea has described US-South Korea military exercises as rehearsals for an invasion and stated that its nuclear weapons and missile programs are for self-defense.
Kim Yo Jong, using North Korea’s official name, stated that interception of North Korean tests of strategic weapons would be regarded as a clear declaration of war against the DPRK.
She added that the Pacific Ocean does not belong to the dominium of the US or Japan, and North Korea is always prepared to take appropriate and quick action.
The US and South Korean militaries will hold their largest joint drills in five years this month, named Freedom Shield and scheduled for at least 10 days starting March 13.
Ahead of those exercises, the allies held air drills this week, featuring a nuclear-capable US B-52 heavy bomber.
North Korea’s foreign ministry accused the US of intentionally escalating tensions, stating that the recent joint air drill shows the US scheme to use nuclear weapons against the DPRK is being carried forward at the level of an actual war.
North Korea has declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power and fired a record-breaking number of missiles last year. Kim Jong Un recently called for an exponential increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes.
North Korea has framed its missile tests and military drills as justified countermeasures following US-South Korea drills. Last week, it called on the United Nations to urge a halt to these exercises, reiterating that its nuclear weapons ensured the balance of power in the region.
South Korea seeks to reassure its increasingly nervous public about the US commitment to extended deterrence, where US military assets, including nuclear weapons, serve to prevent attacks on allies.
Last month, a tabletop US-South Korea exercise at the Pentagon focused on responses to a nuclear attack by North Korea.
Pyongyang responded to that exercise by firing cruise missiles and claimed that ramped-up US-South Korea drills “can be regarded as a declaration of war.”