North Korea has again accused the US of wanting to start a nuclear war after US bombers flew drills over the South. The drills come just days before the US president visits the region amid high tensions with Pyongyang.
Two US strategic bombers staged an exercise over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, provoking protest from Pyongyang shortly before US President Donald Trump starts his first trip to Asia as his country’s leader.
North Korea’s news agency KCNA reported on Friday that the B-1B bombers had staged a “surprise nuclear strike drill targeting the DPRK North Korea.”
“The reality clearly shows that the gangster-like US imperialists are the very ones who are aggravating the situation of the Korean peninsula and seeking to ignite a nuclear war,” KCNA said.
The US Air Force confirmed that the drills had taken place, saying its aircraft had been joined by Japanese and South Korean jets. Broadcaster CNN quoted an Air Force spokeswoman as saying that the mission was planned in advance and was “not in response to any current event.”
The exercise took place as three US aircraft carrier groups are in the Asia-Pacific region, the first time Washington has deployed such forces to the region in a decade. US officials said earlier this week that the three carriers might conduct a joint exercise to coincide with Trump’s trip.
Trump’s biggest international challenge so far
The drills and Trump’s visit come as tensions continue to run high between Washington and Pyongyang after North Korea this year conducted a series of missile tests and its sixth and largest nuclear test.
Trump, who is to travel first to Japan, then on to South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, will be seeking to promote international support for moves to cut off the supply of resources to North Korea.
A South Korean presidential official has said that Seoul might announce unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang ahead of Trump’s arrival.
The US has already approved a variety of sanctions against North Korea, and has pressed China, Pyongyang’s most important ally, to do more to force it to renounce nuclear weapons. Trump has warned that he will “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the United States.
Call for patience
But White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster has struck a more circumspect note.
“I think we have to be a little patient here for at least a few months to see what more we and others can do, including China,” McMaster told reporters in Washington.
South Korea’s spy agency said on Thursday that a recent increase in activity at the North’s missile research facilities in Pyongyang could indicate another imminent launch.
North Korea in July launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles apparently capable of reaching the US mainland. They were described by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a gift to “American bastards.”
tj/ng (dpa, Reuters)