North Korea has warned Washington of “merciless” retaliatory attacks if a US navy aircraft carrier strike group violates its sovereignty during joint war games with South Korean forces.
"If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater,” Pyongyang’s state news agency KCNA announced on Tuesday.
The DPRK is an acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
The statement came after the arrival of the strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, which has 5,500 crew members and includes the destroyer Wayne E. Meyer as well as military aircraft.
The deployment, which was also slammed in the statement as a "scheme to attack” North Korea, comes amid annual joint Washington-Seoul war games that began on March 1.
"On March 11 alone, many enemy carrier-based aircraft flew along a course near territorial air and waters of the DPRK to stage drills of dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets of its army,” the KCNA report added.
The annual military maneuvers, which are billed as defensive in nature, involved nearly 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans last year. South Korea has said this year’s war games would be of a similar scale without elaborating on the number of forces taking part in the ongoing exercise.
This is while a US Navy spokesman said the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was on a pre-planned regular visit to the region, during which it would also take part in the joint military drills with South Korean troops.
Pyongyang slams the annual drills as a rehearsal for attacking the North, repeatedly calling on its southern neighbor to stop the provocative exercises.
Meanwhile, the US military has begun the deployment of "Gray Eagle” attack drones to South Korea as announced by a Pentagon spokesman on Monday.
Moreover, the US military has further deployed an advanced missile system in South Korea known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), raising the ire of North Korea, China and Russia.
However, Washington and Seoul claim the missile system is for defense against North Korea, which has successfully conducted numerous ballistic missile tests in past months.
Pyongyang’s military also fired four ballistic missiles into the sea near Japanese territory last week in response to the joint US-South Korea drills.
Reacting to Pyongyang’s missiles tests, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations said last week President Donald Trump’s administration was re-evaluating its North Korea strategy, threatening that "all options are on the table.”
This is while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also due to make his first official visit to South Korea next Friday.
Adding to the mounting tensions, China has also slammed the joint war games by US and South Korean forces. China’s influential state-run Global Times daily said the USS Carl Vinson was taking part in a simulation of a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.
"The US and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China’s mediation,” it said, referring to claims that China does not do enough to rein in Pyongyang.