North Korea said Tuesday that US-South Korean air drills now under way are preparations for a possible invasion and warned that those countries will pay dearly if they attack the North.
Tensions are extremely high on the North Korean peninsula after months of persistent warnings from Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang leader Kim Jong Un could order a nuclear test soon.
That would be the country’s seventh such test and the first since 2017.
Major US and South Korean air drills involving more than 200 fighter jets and known as Vigilant Storm began on Monday.
Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, called these drills aggressive and provocative.
Pak said the name of the exercises harks back to Operation Desert Storm, the US-led military assault on Iraq in 1990-1991 after it invaded Kuwait.
“If the US and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK’s armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history,” Pak said, according to the state-run news agency KCNA. He used the official acronym for North Korea.
“It should be noted that in the present situation, it is a big mistake to accept this as a threat warning only,” the official added.
Last Friday North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles, the South’s military said, the latest in a blitz of launches that Washington and Seoul have warned could culminate in another nuclear test.
The air drills now under way were preceded by 12 days of amphibious naval exercises.
Such exercises infuriate Pyongyang, which sees them as rehearsals for invasion and has repeatedly justified its blitz of missile launches as a necessary response to what it deems US aggression.