The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) warned it would launch a “preemptive and offensive” nuclear strike in response to U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises on Monday.
The statement containing the nuclear threats was released by the National Defense Commission of North Korea and was published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). It said that the army and people of North Korea reserved the right to “make military counter-action for preemptive attack” and “launch an all-out offensive” on the United States and South Korea.
“As the joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, its military counteraction will be more preemptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them,” the statement read according to CNN.
The alarming North Korean threats came in response to the United States and South Korea performing the largest joint military drills to ever take place on the peninsula, which are expected to be run until the end of the month. The DPRK has criticized the drills as a “rehearsal for an impending war,” according to CCTV America.
The drills came after North Korea successfully tested what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb on January 6, followed by the launch of a long-range rocket on February 7, which some alleged was a test of ballistic missile technology.
Tensions are also much higher than normal due to the recent round of new sanctions imposed on the DPRK by unanimous U.N. Security Council vote last week because of the nuclear test and missile launch, both of which were direct violations of international sanctions. The new U.N. sanctions are the toughest imposed on the DPRK in over 20 years, and they include banning imports of military products and jet and rocket fuel, and halting exports of coal, iron, gold, and other commodities.
South Korea is also set to impose even tougher sanctions on its neighbor to the north next week, which would include banning all ships that have previously docked at any port in the DPRK from entering South Korean ports.
The KCNA statement also said that “the first attack target will be South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, followed by attacking the White House and other targets on the U.S. mainland,” CCTV reported.
Russia, one of Pyongyang’s leading trading partners and few remaining allies in the world, issued a stern warning to North Korea that its continued threats are creating a legal basis for international military intervention into the country.
“We consider it to be absolutely impermissible to make public statements containing threats to deliver some ‘preventive nuclear strikes’ against opponents,” a translation of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s response posted by NK News stated. “Pyongyang should be aware of the fact that in this way the DPRK will become fully opposed to the international community and will create international legal grounds for using military force against itself in accordance with the right of a state to self-defense enshrined in the United Nations Charter.”
Though Moscow also mentioned that the military drills put unprecedented military and political pressure on North Korea and as the clear target of these exercises it should be concerned for its safety, warnings of a legal basis for invasion from the Russian Federation are highly notable. Russian-North Korean relations have historically been very close.
“We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and statements that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” a senior administration official said Monday. “We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula in coordination with our Republic of Korea allies.”
Pyongyang’s ability to actually carry out its own threats of a preemptive nuclear strike remains uncertain.
[Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images]