North Korea has warned military allies South Korea and the United States that their decision to extend the “Vigilant Storm” joint-military air drills would push tension to “an uncontrollable phase”, South Korean media reported.
Pyongyang denounced as “very dangerous” the decision by Washington and Seoul on Thursday to extend their air drills in response to North Korea’s launch of ballistic missiles, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), earlier in the day.
“It was reported that the US and South Korea decided to extend the combined air drill Vigilant Storm,” the party secretary said in the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
“It is a very dangerous and false choice,” he said, according to Yonhap. “The irresponsible decision of the US and South Korea is shoving the present situation, caused by provocative military acts of the allied forces, to an uncontrollable phase,” he added.
The Vigilant Storm drills – which began on Monday and were scheduled to end on Friday – involve some 240 fighter jets and other military aircraft conducting about 1,600 joint missions. The air drills followed days after the South Korean military wrapped up the 12-day Hoguk 22 field exercises, in which an undisclosed number of US troops had participated.
In a statement earlier in the day, the South Korean military said the US had agreed to extend Vigilant Storm owing to North Korea’s “recent provocations”.
Chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-kyum and the head of US Forces Korea Paul LaCamera also held a virtual meeting and reaffirmed their commitment to “a stronger combined defence posture”, according to the statement.
North Korea has long condemned joint military drills between the US and South Korea as a rehearsal for invasion and had warned of “powerful follow-up measures” should the air warfare exercises go ahead this week.