In response to remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korea warned late Wednesday that if the United States takes any military action against the regime of leader Kim Jong Un, Pyongyang will take “prompt corresponding actions at any level.”
Nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and the North have effectively been deadlocked since working-level talks in early October ended with Pyongyang’s top negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, saying they had been broken off due to Washington’s “failure to abandon its outdated viewpoint and attitude.”
Since then, senior North Korean officials have repeatedly criticized the U.S. over its position in the talks, seeking to carve out new concessions from the Trump administration ahead of a year-end deadline set by Kim for progress in the talks.
Asked about reining in the North’s nuclear program ahead of a NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump hinted that military action is still a possibility.
“He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him ‘Rocket Man,'” Trump said, using his disparaging nickname for Kim.
“We have the most powerful military we’ve ever had, and we’re by far the most powerful country in the world. And, hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it,” Trump added.
Responding Wednesday, Pak Jong Chon, the powerful chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, said he was “greatly disappointed” by Trump’s comments, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
But Pak wasn’t the only one concerned, he said.
“The Supreme Commander of our armed forces was also displeased to hear it,” he said, referring to Kim.
Pak, who accompanied Kim during a recent visit to Mount Paektu, the North’s most sacred site, warned that “the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S. only.”
“If the U.S. uses any armed forces against the DPRK, we will also take prompt corresponding actions at any level,” he added, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The use of armed forces against the DPRK will be a horrible thing for the U.S.,” he added.
In a sign of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Pak also singled out recent “unusual military moves” by the U.S. that he said were targeting the North
“We are analyzing the effects those military actions can have on the security of the DPRK and are getting ourselves ready to cope with them,” he said.
It was not clear what Pak was referring to, but the U.S. has reportedly sent reconnaissance aircraft over the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks in a series of near-daily flights to monitor North Korea amid concerns Pyongyang could undertake additional provocations.
The recent visit to Paektu, which plays a key role in the official history of the Kim family dynasty, was Kim’s second in two months. Both Kim and his predecessors have in the past visited the mountain ahead of key decisions on the country’s future.
In a sign that such a decision is in the cards, the official KCNA reported Tuesday that North Korea will hold a plenary session of its ruling party’s powerful central committee later this month. It said the meeting will be held “in order to discuss and decide on crucial issues … and the changed situation at home and abroad.”
Analysts said the statement could signal the North may change tack after failing to squeeze concessions on crushing U.N. and unilateral sanctions out of the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program.