North Korea warned Sunday that the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises set to start Monday will be “adding fuel to the fire” of already heightened tensions with the United States and its allies.
An editorial in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper described the annual military drill as “reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war,” CNN reported.
Pyongyang also said that “no one can guarantee that the exercise won’t evolve into actual fighting,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
“If the United States is lost in a fantasy that war on the peninsula is at somebody else’s door far away from them across the Pacific, it is far more mistaken than ever,” Yonhap said, quoting the North Korean newspaper.
The 10-day exercise, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, will involve 17,500 U.S. service members, including 3,000 from outside South Korea, the Pentagon said.
The exercise, which lasts through Aug. 31, aims to improve readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, the Pentagon said Friday in a statement.
© SOUTH KOREAN MARINE COPRS / YONHAP HANDOUT, EPA A handout photo made available by the South Korean Marine Corps shows South Korean Marines patrolling along the coast of the eastern island of Ulleung as they take part in the…
The threats come as President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have traded warnings in recent weeks, as the North demonstrated progress in its quest for nuclear weapons capable of striking the U.S. mainland despite international condemnation.
North Korea on Aug. 8 announced plans for a ballistic missile test that would strike near the U.S. territory of Guam, and Trump warned that the U.S. would respond to a North Korean attack with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
North Korea later said its leader would wait to “watch the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before deciding whether to conduct the missile test.
North Korea also has thousands of conventional missiles and artillery aimed at South Korea’s capital of Seoul, and other civilian targets in the South and Japan.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday the U.S. military would be prepared to intercept any missile heading toward the U.S. territory or that of its allies.