TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - “If large-scale hostilities break out on the Korean Peninsula, tens of thousands of US citizens [who live in South Korea] will die,” Nikolai Patrushev told Russian media in a press conference in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Tuesday, adding that such an appalling outcome would be “unacceptable casualties in every country’s military language.”
The security official reiterated that Pyongyang had already positioned its artillery and rocket launch sites as close as 50 kilometers from the South Korean capital city of Seoul, a vibrant metropolis accommodating some 10 million people, including some 250,000 American citizens.
“Today, the US makes aggressive [and] provocative statements against the [North Korean] leadership and the entire North Korean people, and conducts large-scale aerial and naval drills together with South Korea,” Patrushev added, saying the White House was carrying responsibility for contributing to “a vicious circle” of tension on the peninsula.
Patrushev’s warning came less than two weeks after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised the alarm over the danger of “sleepwalking” into a war with the North over its nuclear and missile programs, warning at the time that such a catastrophe might have “very dramatic circumstances.”
Tensions have been building on the Korean Peninsula following a series of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang as well as threats of war and personal insults traded between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump and other senior US officials have threatened North Korea with destruction if it continues nuclear “provocations.”
Washington has been in a constant tussle with Pyongyang over its weapons programs.
The White House says those programs pose a threat to the US and its allies while North Korea says it needs to develop its military strength to guard against potential invasion by the US and its allies.
On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a US-drafted resolution that, among other crippling sanctions, sought to ban almost 90 percent of the North-bound exports of refined petroleum products by limiting them to 500,000 barrels a year. It further capped crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year.
On Sunday, Pyongyang denounced the new punitive measures in a strongly-worded statement, saying it was a “pipe dream” for Washington to think the North would abandon its nuclear program. It also called the new resolution an “act of war” that violates North Korea’s sovereignty.
Pyongyang has been under a raft of crippling UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. The North has firmly defended its military program as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.
The North has already demanded a halt to what it called “brutal sanctions” imposed by the UNSC, saying the previous bans imposed after Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 constitute “genocide.”
The US has already installed a number of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems to reportedly shoot down North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in case of a war. The provocative move not only angered Pyongyang, which sees the systems as a threat to its sovereignty, but also prompted Russia and China to voice their strong concern and oppositions.
Elsewhere in his remarks on Tuesday, Patrushev said that the US was very consistent in its plans to deploy elements of its global missile defense systems in the region. “We can’t rule out that raising tensions around North Korea benefits the United States’ strategic goals,” he said.