North Korea warns US of ‘overwhelming nuclear force’

North Korea warned the United States on Thursday of “overwhelming nuclear force” in response to an increase in the country’s military exercises with South Korea.

The North Korean foreign ministry said the stepping-up of military drills from South Korea’s allies could turn the Korean Peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone.” It said North Korea is prepared to respond to any short-term or long-term military challenge with nuclear force.

“The military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces,” a spokesperson said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday that the U.S. will increase its deployment of military equipment, such as fighter jets and aircraft carriers, to South Korea.

North Korea has said that it considers the military drills to be practicing for an invasion, but the U.S. and South Korea have maintained that they are for defensive purposes.

The South Korean defense ministry said the U.S. flew B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35 fighter jets in a military exercise along with South Korean fighters on Wednesday off the country’s western coast. The U.S. and South Korea are planning a joint simulation later this month to prepare a response to North Korea potentially using nuclear weapons.

North Korea tested a record number of missiles last year as part of increasing threats directed toward South Korea. That included seven intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The North Korean government also sent drones into South Korea for the first time since 2017 last year.

“If the U.S. continues to introduce strategic assets into the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding area, the DPRK will make clearer its deterring activities without fail according to their nature,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

Austin said while in the Philippines on Thursday that the U.S. is “very serious” about its defense of South Korea and will continue to work with and train its allies.

The South Korean foreign ministry said North Korea is the one escalating tensions by making nuclear threats and rejecting offers from the U.S. and South Korea to discuss issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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