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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

North Korea tells US to beware of ‘shocking accident’

Pyongyang has accused Washington of “nuclear blackmail” and spying “beyond the wartime level”

The North Korean military has accused the Pentagon of aggravating tensions to a critical level and pushing the region closer than ever to a nuclear disaster, warning that any misstep could lead to a “shocking accident,” according to a lengthy statement carried by state media on Monday.

The Korean Peninsula is on the brink of a “nuclear conflict due to the US provocative military action,” the Defense Ministry in Pyongyang claimed, referring to Washington’s plan to send nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea on rotational basis.

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“The US attempt to introduce strategic nuclear weapons into the Korean peninsula is the most undisguised nuclear blackmail against the DPRK and its neighboring countries and a grave threat and challenge to the regional and global peace and security,” an unnamed military spokesman was cited as saying.

Pyongyang went on to accuse Washington of drastically increasing its spying activities and repeatedly breaching North Korea’s airspace, adding that the US “will surely have to pay a dear price for its provocative air espionage.”

“There is no guarantee that a shocking accident such as the downing of a US Air Force strategic reconnaissance plane will not happen in the East Sea of Korea,” the spokesman said, urging the US to “recall the tragic fate” of its aerial spy assets, namely the downing of the EC-121 plane in 1969 and OH-58 helicopter in 1994.

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North Korea claimed it has been “maintaining [the] utmost patience and self-control,” but warned that “everything has its limit,” and that “the US is near the critical point to be concerned.”

The US and South Korea intensified their joint air and navy drills this year, with the Pentagon deploying strategic assets such as heavy bombers and an aircraft carrier. North Korea considers US deployments near its territory to be “provocations,” and usually responds with verbal threats, drills of its own, or new weapon tests.

US President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk-yeol, announced in April a program of increased nuclear cooperation. Under the Washington Declaration, the US will periodically deploy nuclear-armed submarines and bombers to the Asian nation for the first time in nearly half a century.

Although no clear timeframe has been announced for deployment, a US nuclear-powered submarine, armed with cruise missiles but no nukes, made a port call at Busan last month.