North Korea threatens naval exercises
‘Nuclear deterrence’ cited against U.s., south Korean drills
HANOI, Vietnam — North Korea inflamed tensions over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by threatening the United States and South Korea with a “physical response” and “nuclear deterrence” if they carry out naval maneuvers this weekend. The U.S. refused to back down.
North Korea’s official news agency this morning carried a North Korean Defense Commission statement: “The army and people … will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largestever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces.”
The threat came four months after the sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors. North Korea has been blamed for torpedoing the ship, but it denies any involvement.
“North Korea may very well go ahead with missile launches or even a third nuclear test to show it won’t bend to U.S. pressure,” said Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
In Vietnam for a Southeast Asian regional security forum, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a North Korean ‘There will be physical response against the threat imposed by the United States militarily,’ North Korean spokesman Ri Tong Il, center right, said at a regional summit Friday in Hanoi, Vietnam. official traded barbs over the sinking, the four-day military drills that begin Sunday and new U.S. sanctions.
At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Hanoi, North Korean spokesman Ri Tong Il repeated Pyongyang’s denial of responsibility for the sinking. He said the military drills — to be held in the Sea of Japan off Korea’s east coast and in the Yellow Sea closer to China’s shores — were a violation of Korean sovereignty that harkened back to the days of 19th century “gunboat diplomacy.”
The maneuvers will involve 20 vessels and 200 aircraft from the U.S. and South Korea.
These exercises will be “another expression of hostile policy against” North Korea,” Ri told reporters. “There will be physical response against the threat imposed by the United States militarily.”
Clinton responded by saying that the U.S. is willing to negotiate with North Korea, but that threats by Pyongyang only heighten tensions.
“It is distressing when North Korea continues its threats and causes so much anxiety among its neighbors and the larger region,” she told reporters. “But we will demonstrate once again with our military exercises … that the United States stands in firm support of the defense of South Korea.”
Shortly before Ri spoke, Clinton had lashed out against belligerent acts by North Korea, warning that Pyongyang must reverse a “campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior” if it wants improved relations with its neighbors and the United States.