- The US and South Korea are preparing for expanded joint military exercises, which will include live field exercises.
- North Korea has warned that both countries could face “unwanted consequences”.
- South Korea’s president told reporters on Friday that the North could conduct a nuclear test at any moment.
As the US and South Korea prepare for extended summer joint military exercises, North Korea is warning that the two allies will face “unprecedented” security challenges and “undesirable” consequences if they do not stop their “military confrontation”.
Cho Jin, deputy director of the North Korean Institute for Disarmament and Peace, a government agency run by North Korea’s foreign ministry, told The Associated Press this week that US-South Korean military drills are “driving the Korean peninsula to the brink of war.”
“If the United States and its allies choose to engage in military conflict with us, they will face unprecedented security instability,” Jin said, adding, “The United States must remember that it will be treated on an equal footing when it threatens us with nuclear weapons.”
Jin also said the US must stop its “suicide policy of hostility” if North Korea does not want to suffer “unwanted consequences”.
Joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, longtime allies, are regular events. Exercises have been smaller in recent years, but this year, the two countries will resume joint field exercises for the first time since 2018, South Korea’s defense ministry said. North Korea’s response has so far been consistent with its response to past drills, which it sees as a precursor to an attack.
Summer military exercises have been scaled back due to Covid-19, efforts to ease tensions with the North and, under the Trump administration, presidential complaints about the cost of the drills.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, whose first term began in May, has said the joint drills should be normalized as a deterrent against North Korea engaging in provocative behavior again.
“The U.S. and South Korea are clearly demonstrating how close their alliance is,” RAND Corporation senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett told Insider. “One would be surprised if Kim Jong-un doesn’t realize it’s his fault. If he hadn’t conducted so many missile tests this year, we wouldn’t have come out with the strength of our alliance.”
North Korea has conducted 31 missile tests in 2022, including what it claims is the first successful ICBM launch since 2017. On June 6, just 24 hours after North Korea launched eight short-range missiles, the US and South Korea conducted a joint test. -A missile test that later said the Joint Chiefs of Staff “demonstrated North Korea’s ability and posture to launch precision strikes quickly upon provocation, despite launching missiles from various locations.”
But South Korea says more provocative tests from the North could come soon, including the first nuclear test since September 2017. President Yoon said that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any moment.
“We believe that it will be fully ready and capable, not only by the end of this month, but from my inauguration, when it decides,” Yun told reporters on Friday. In May, CNN reported that the US had assessed that North Korea could be ready to conduct another nuclear test by the end of the month.
Bennett said he would not be surprised if North Korea turned to nuclear testing as its “next major provocation.”
“The fact that the U.S. is participating in this exercise is going to cause all kinds of concerns for Kim,” Bennett told Insider. “He doesn’t want to strengthen our alliance, but he’s doing really well this year.”