North Korea warned Saturday that the US redeployment of an aircraft carrier near the Korean peninsula was causing a “significant negative scattering” of regional security, defending its recent missile tests as a “good response” to intimidating military exercises among its foes.
The North Korean Defense Ministry’s statement came a day after the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan began a new round of naval exercises with South Korean warships off the peninsula’s east coast. The Reagan and its battle group returned to the region after North Korea launched a powerful missile at Japan earlier this week in protest of the aircraft carrier group’s previous training with South Korea.
An unnamed North Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said in remarks carried by state media that Reagan’s redeployment “has had a largely significant negative impact on the regional situation.” “The (North Korean) armed forces are seriously approaching the very worrying development of the current situation.”
He also described Reagan’s return as “a kind of military deception” to issue a warning about North Korea’s “good response” to “the United States and South Korea’s highly provocative and threatening joint military exercises”.
North Korea regards military exercises between the United States and South Korea as a rehearsal for the invasion and is particularly sensitive if such exercises involve US strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier. North Korea said it was forced to pursue a nuclear weapons program to counter US nuclear threats. US and South Korean officials have repeatedly said that they do not intend to attack the North.
In the past two weeks, North Korea has launched 10 ballistic missiles into the sea in five launch events, adding to its record pace in weapons tests this year. Recent weapons tests include a nuclear-capable missile that flew over Japan for the first time in five years and demonstrated a range to strike US Pacific territory at Guam and beyond.
Earlier this year, North Korea tested another nuclear-capable ballistic missile that puts the mainland United States and its allies South Korea and Japan in close proximity.
North Korea’s testing spree indicates that its leader, Kim Jong Un, has no intention of resuming diplomacy with the United States and wants to focus on expanding his arsenal. But some experts say Kim will ultimately aim to use his advanced nuclear program to extract greater external concessions, such as recognition of North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, which Kim believes are necessary to lift crippling UN sanctions on his country.
The last Reagan carrier group exercise with the South Korean Navy is scheduled to end on Saturday.
South Korean officials said recently that North Korea is also ready to test a liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile while maintaining its readiness to conduct its first underground nuclear test since 2017.
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