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North Korea threatens declaration of war with US if military drills continue

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Yonhap News/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS)
February 28, 2023

The North Korean government warned on Friday that joint U.S. and South Korean military drills in and around the Korean Peninsula may be considered a “declaration of war” if they continue.

Kwon Jong-gun, North Korea’s designated envoy for U.S.-related affairs, said the U.S. deployment of strategic military assets on the Korean Peninsula, and joint military drills with South Korea are considered “hostile actions.”

Last week, the U.S. and South Korea conducted joint aerial drills and held a strategic table-top exercise at the Pentagon which was designed to rehearse its deterrence capabilities and response posture in light of North Korea’s expanding nuclear weapons program. The U.S. is also set to begin joint drills with South Korea in the coming weeks, and the exercises could include a U.S. aircraft carrier, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Kwon’s comments came days after the U.S. and other members of the United Nations Security Council (U.N.S.C.) raised issue with recent North Korean ballistic missile tests. The U.S., Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on Feb. 20 in condemnation of the recent North Korean missile tests.

The remaining U.N.S.C. members — China, Russia, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana — did not join the U.S.-led condemnation of the North Korean missile tests.

“Since the U.S. persists in its attempt to deprive the D.P.R.K. of its right to self-defense by misusing the U.N.S.C., the D.P.R.K. will never remain a passive onlooker to such attempt,” Kwon said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.)

“The only way for preventing the vicious cycle of military tension on the Korean peninsula and its surroundings is for the U.S. to show a clear and practical stand such as the abandonment of its commitment to deploying strategic assets in south Korea and the halt to various kinds of combined drills against the DPRK,” Kwon continued. “The U.S. should be mindful of the fact that if it persists in its hostile and provocative practices against the D.P.R.K., despite the latter’s repeated protest and warning, it can be regarded as a declaration of war against the D.P.R.K.”

North Korea has a pattern of issuing threats ahead of joint U.S. and South Korean military drills.