NK: US & South Korean Military Drills Increased Possibility Of Nuclear War
PYONGYANG - North Korean state news agency, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has said that military drills by the United States and South Korea have increased the possibility of "nuclear war" on the "Korean Peninsula".
The 1,500-word article by the KCNA said that "The U.S. has never in the past been in the habit of such an unprecedented level of hostile activities and nuclear blackmail against us," and said that Washington is "constantly" practicing its "nuclear war plans" targeting North Korea.
The article said that the military drills by the United States and South Korea "prove" that "the possibility of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is now becoming a present-tense matter".
The article also claimed that the United States is using the drills with South Korea as a pretext in order to keep both Russia and China in check.
South Korea's New President Emphasizes Preemptive "Kill Chain" Strikes
In April, South Korean minister, Suh Wook said that South Korea's missiles now have greatly improved range, accuracy, and power, and said that they have "the ability to accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea".
After South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May, he spoke of the "Kill Chain", which is a South Korean system that is designed to counter a nuclear attack by North Korea with preemptive strikes.
Kill Chain developed 10 years ago in response to efforts by North Korea to increase the development of nuclear warheads, and calls for preemptive strikes against North Korea's missile systems, as well as possibly its senior leaders if an attack is deemed to be imminent.
In July, Reuters cited Ankit Panda from the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as saying, "I can see why leadership decapitation is tempting for South Korea, but threatening to kill the leadership of a nuclear-armed state is uniquely dangerous".
Jeffrey Lewis, who is a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), said that the plan is "the most plausible route to a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula".
On his Twitter account, he said "This is the [military] plan that is most likely to succeed... But it is also the option most likely to create uncontrollable escalation dynamics and start a nuclear war."
North Korea responded to South Korea's strategy in April by condemning the tactic, and saying that it would "mercilessly direct all of its military force into destroying major targets in Seoul and the South Korean army", if the South Korean military carries out any dangerous military activities, such as a preemptive strike.
North Korea Warns Of Its Own Preemptive Capabilities In Response To Kill Chain
In response to the South's talk of Kill Chain, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told top military officials to "maintain the absolute superiority" of North Korea's armed forces, and the capability of "preemptively and thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves... if necessary," according to KCNA.
Kim said that Pyongyang should continue to build its arsenal so that it can have the "overwhelming military muscle that no force in the world can provoke," and said that it was the "lifeline guaranteeing the security of our country".
North Korea Expected By Western Countries To Carry Out Another Nuclear Test Soon
Meanwhile, the West has been expecting North Korea to carry out another nuclear test, after a 5-year hiatus. The North's sixth and last nuclear test was on September 3rd, 2017, which is said to have triggered a 6.3-magnitude earthquake close to North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site In North Korea. Image | Public Domain
On Friday, South Korea's national security adviser Kim Sung-han made a comment that there will be no soft response if North Korea conducts a 7th nuclear test, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
On Thursday, The national security advisers of the United States, South Korea, and Japan held a trilateral meeting in Hawaii and discussed possible responses if the North conducted another nuclear test.
Kim Sung-han, director of Seoul’s National Security Office said, "Should North Korea conduct its seventh nuclear test, our reaction will definitely be different from those until now," according to Yonhap.
Kim reportedly said, "We have agreed there should never be such a complacent thinking or response that North Korea has conducted just another nuclear test in addition to the six tests it did".
Additionally, Kim said "If North Korea conducts its seventh nuclear test, our three countries, together with the international community, will maximize cooperation in a way that (North Korea) realizes it was a clearly wrong choice," according to Yonhap.
South Korea: Stronger Sanctions If North Conducts Nuclear Test
South Korea's foreign minister Park Jin said that North Korea has completed preparation for a 7th nuclear test, and indicated that the North would be facing stronger sanctions if it conducts another nuclear test.
"There need to be more strengthened sanctions for North Korean IT workers stationed abroad making funds through illegal cyber hacking activity," he stated.
The United States and South Korea have both accused North Korea of mobilizing thousands of hackers to steal cryptocurrency in order to finance its weapons programs, an accusation which the North has denied, saying that its weapons programs are for defensive purposes only.
Satellite Imagery Suggests North's Nuclear Test Site Damaged By Flood Waters
On August 29th, Beyond Parallel, a U.S. Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that satellite imagery suggests North Korea's main nuclear test facility in Punggye-ri had been damaged by flood waters, and that repair work on the site looked to be suspended.
The satellite photos showed no new activity at the nuclear test facility. Beyond Parallel said that "No significant activity is observed at Tunnel No. 3 of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility. This is not unexpected as both the United States and South Korea assess that North Korea has finished all preparations for conducting a nuclear test at this tunnel."
Additionally, it said, "Road construction to Tunnel No. 4 remains suspended, and flood damage to the facility's sole access road is observable, both likely a result of the heavy rains during the past two months".
The Punggye-ri nuclear test facility was where all six of the previous nuclear tests had been carried out in North Korea and is expected to be the site where its seventh nuclear test will likely be carried out, "at any time," according to South Korean officials.
Beyond parallel had stated on its website, "Satellite imagery from August 24, 2022, shows no significant developments or changes to the area outside the portal for Tunnel No. 3, within which the United States and South Korea have assessed that North Korea has completed all preparations for conducting a nuclear test".
It also stated, "These sources have also assessed that the decision to conduct a seventh nuclear test remains solely within the hands of Kim Jong-un, who announced that the country's "nuclear war deterrent is also fully ready to demonstrate its absolute power" in late July".
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