The United States and South Korea are now engaged in extensive military exercises, and on Tuesday, North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons to make them “pay the most horrific price in history” by doing so.
This was an increase in its venomous rhetoric.
Since North Korea adopted legislation allowing the preemptive use of its nuclear weapons in various circumstances and conducted a series of nuclear missile tests, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been at an all-time high.
Some observers question North Korea’s ability to launch an initial nuclear strike against militarily stronger South Korean and American forces.
North Korea has claimed that its recent nuclear and missile tests were intended to send a message to Washington and Seoul regarding a series of joint military exercises that it sees as an invasion practice, such as the ones this week involving nearly 240 bombers.
Kim Jong Un’s close confidant and Workers’ Party secretary Pak Jong Chon described the so-called “Vigilant Storm” air force exercises as “aggressive and provocative.”
In an apparent allusion to the Pentagon’s recently issued National Defense Strategy report, Pak also charged that the Pentagon had identified the fall of the North Korean regime as a critical strategic goal.
Any nuclear assault by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners “would have a fatal outcome,” according to the assessment.
He criticized South Korean military authorities for making “rubbish” statements that North Korea would be destroyed if it used nuclear weapons.
The military of South Korea has issued a warning to North Korea, saying that unleashing its nuclear weapons would lead to a “road of self-destruction.”
Officials from the United States and South Korea have consistently insisted that their military exercises are defensive and that they have no plans to invade North Korea.
The North has warned the US and South Korea twice this week, with the most recent warning coming from Pak.
In reaction to its competitors’ air force exercises, the North’s Foreign Ministry threatened “more forceful follow-up measures” on Monday.
According to South Korean officials, North Korea may up the ante in the upcoming weeks by exploding its first nuclear test device since September 2017.
This could move the country closer to its objectives of developing a fully-functional nuclear arsenal capable of endangering nearby U.S. allies and the American mainland.
According to some experts, North Korea may eventually seek to gain sanctions relief and other concessions from the United States by using its increased nuclear weapons as leverage.