North Korea has threatened to conduct a “pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice” unless the biggest ever joint military drills off the Korean Peninsula, involving more than 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 American troops, are halted.
The annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises, which have taken place since 2008, are kicking off on Monday and will run through April 30.
The exercise involves conducting amphibious operations for possible wartime missions. Part of the joint exercise this year will be dedicated to perfecting techniques for tackling the North Korean nuclear threat, after Pyongyang’s recent claims of nuclear technological advancement and the means to deliver the warheads.
The drill will also put to test the Operations Plan (OPLAN) 5015, a new military strategy which is designed to promptly take out the North’s core military facilities and weapons as well as its top leaders, in the event of a North Korean attack.
Ahead of the US-S.Korean drills, the North has once again warned against provocations and threatened to nuke its adversaries if the drills go ahead. Pyongyang vowed a “preemptive and offensive nuclear strike” against the “undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty” of North Korea.
“If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment,” the North’s official KCNA news agency added.
The DPRK foreign ministry meanwhile blamed Washington for any possible actions the North might be forced to undertake.
“The US is working hard to turn the Korean Peninsula into the theater of a war, not content with slapping its unreasonable ‘sanctions’ against the DPRK over its self-defensive H-bomb test and satellite launch for peaceful purposes,” according to the statement read by the spokesman, Yonhap News quotes.
“If a war breaks out in the peninsula, the US will be held accountable for igniting the war by mobilizing strategic means and war hardware, regardless of who mounted a preemptive attack,” the statement said.
The threat to conduct nuclear strike comes just days after Kim Jong-Un placed his arsenal on high alert to be ready to destroy hostile targets “at any moment.”
Targets on the North’s list are American bases in South Korea and Asia-Pacific region as well as the US mainland, according to Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
“We have state-of-the-art weapons that no country in the world has previously possessed and that can bombard the US in any way we want,” the latest issued of the paper says.
Tensions are at their ultimate high in Korean peninsula after Pyongyang’s nuclear test on January 6 and February’s satellite rocket launch. As a consequence the UN Security Council slapped toughest sanctions to date on the North over its nuclear weapons program.
On Friday, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary said that nuclear threat “comments and provocative actions… are not new” from North Korea as he urged the North to “refrain from provocative actions and statements that tend to aggravate tensions.”