North Korea has placed its troops on an emergency posture in protest against joint drills here by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan which involved a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Pyongyang’s state media said Tuesday.
The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army lambasted the deployment of the USS George Washington in the East Sea, which arrived in Busan on Sept. 30 for four-day Seoul-Washington maritime exercises and trilateral programs with Tokyo scheduled for Oct. 8-10.
The latter drills were delayed due to bad weather. It was initially expected to include the guided-missile USS Antietam CG-54 cruiser, USS Preble DDG 88 destroyer, fighter jets, anti-submarine helicopters and early warning aircraft.
“Now the U.S. imperialists are openly advertising that the drills to be staged with the aircraft carrier task force as an axis are a planned military offensive to pressurize the DPRK (North Korea) in a bid to deter its possible ‘provocations’ including nuclear test and missile launch and lead it to ‘changes’ desired by them,” said the military organ’s spokesman in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
It claimed the 97,000-ton supercarrier is equipped with at least 100 nuclear bombs, guided-missile destroyers, cruisers, submarines and escort warships, among others.
As a result, the KPA’s supreme command on Saturday ordered all troops to reexamine already-ratified operation plans and “keep themselves fully ready to promptly launch operations any time, watching with high vigilance every move of the U.S. and Japanese aggressors and the (South Korean) puppet forces,” the statement said.
“The U.S. should bear in mind that the more frequently and the deeper its imperialist aggression forces’ nuclear strike means including the nuclear carrier enter the air above the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula and waters off it, the more unpredictable disasters their actions will cause.”
The announcement again raised tension on the peninsula that has in recent months witnessed a thaw in cross-border relations after a string of Pyongyang’s warlike threats early this year.
The heavily-militarized country has routinely accused the allies of staging joint drills as a dress rehearsal for war. In March, the North threatened nuclear strikes on Seoul and the U.S. after they conducted annual trainings involving bombers, stealth jets and aircraft carriers.
The move is seen as an attempt to press Washington to return to the negotiating table as Pyongyang has called for high-level dialogue with the U.S. and a restart of the six-nation denuclearization talks that have been on hold for five years.
But Seoul and Washington remain unwavering in their demand that Pyongyang should first prove its sincerity with action.
On Tuesday, the communist state also warned the U.S. of “disastrous consequences” of the naval exercises, putting its troops on alert.
It also harshly criticized President Park Geun-hye by name last week and vowed to stick to its parallel pursuit of nuclear and economic development.
Seoul said Pyongyang’s anti-South rhetoric is “going too far,” urging the regime to stop threatening the South Korean citizens and humiliating the president.
“North Korea may think that it could draw attention of our people and the international community through provocative words,” the Unification Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In fact, it must realize as early as possible that all it could get is nothing but international isolation.”
The Defense Ministry said it is closely watching the North Korean military’s moves.
“(The South Korean military) is on tight guard to deter any provocations by North Korea,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.