North Korea has said U.S. President Donald Trump is “begging for nuclear war,” labeling Washington a “nuclear demon” for the staging of a massive joint aerial military drill with South Korea scheduled to kick off Monday.
The five-day Vigilant Ace exercise was to involve 12,000 U.S. personnel and more than 230 aircraft from both countries, including U.S. stealth fighter jets from Japan, B-1B strategic bombers from Guam and advanced South Korean aircraft. The two countries will stage simulated precision airstrikes on mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.
Late Saturday, a spokesman from the North’s Foreign Ministry blasted the “unprecedented” exercise for “simulating actual combat” scenarios, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
“The U.S. is publicly touting the objective of the drill as enhancing the actual combat capability to disable the DPRK’s major strategic bases in the early stages of war,” the unidentified spokesman said. “It has just wound up the large-scale nuclear war drill against the DPRK that involved three nuclear powered aircraft carrier strike groups … prompting the speculation that the U.S. nuclear attack on the DPRK is a possible scenario.
“The Trump team is begging for nuclear war by staging an extremely dangerous nuclear gamble on the Korean peninsula,” the spokesman said.
Last month saw three U.S. aircraft carriers and their multiship strike groups conduct four days of exercises in the Sea of Japan. The rare show of force on North Korea’s doorstep angered Pyongyang, which routinely calls such exercises a rehearsal for invasion.
In Saturday’s statement, the North said the U.S. was driving the situation on the peninsula “to the brink of crisis” and that the drills showed “who is the real nuclear war maniac and the ‘nuclear demon’ that disrupts and destroys peace.”
Citing a decree by the country’s Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s legislature, the statement reiterated the mission of its nuclear force: “To deter and repel the U.S. invasion and attack against the country, and carry out crushing retaliatory strikes on the bases of aggression.”
North Korea has vowed to target U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan in the event of an attack.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula, the statement went on, “can be maintained only when an effective balance of force is established between the DPRK and the U.S.”
DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea.
Kim declared on Wednesday after the launch of the country’s latest long-range missile that it had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
In September, after lobbing a second missile over Hokkaido, the North Korean leader said that the country’s “final goal” was to create an “equilibrium of real force with the U.S.” that would prompt Washington to rule out military action for reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.