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US nuclear blackmail reaching new levels with bomber deployment: North Korea

A senior North Korean official says the United States' nuclear blackmail has reached new levels with its deployment of strategic bombers in the Korean Peninsula.

Ri Pyong Chol, vice president of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Military Commission, was cited by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency as making the comment on Monday after the US and its regional allies — South Korea and Japan — conducted trilateral exercises in what they claimed to be a response to Pyongyang’s recent test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Ri censured the US for calling a UN Security Council meeting over the ICBM test and said the North’s weapons development was a self-defensive measure against Washington.

Ri accused the US of raising regional tensions “to the brink of explosion” with military drills simulating a “preemptive nuclear strike and an all-out war” against the North.

The senior official said the recent deployment of US strategic bombers was “clear evidence that the US nuclear threat and blackmail against us has reached a level that cannot be overlooked.”

“If the US ignores our repeated warnings and continues actions that endanger the security environment of the Korean Peninsula, we will take necessary action so that it feels a clearer security crisis and insurmountable threat.”

Earlier on Monday, the United States, South Korea and Japan staged joint naval missile defense exercises, claiming they were meant “to improve responses to North Korean threats.” The air forces of South Korea and the United States also began drills for a 12-day run.

During negotiations in Washington on Friday, the three allies agreed to hold regular anti-missile and anti-submarine drills to boost diplomatic and military cooperation after North Korea tested a new solid-fuel ICBM as part of an increase in its military activities in recent weeks.

North Korea fires suspected ICBM toward East Sea, sparks brief evacuation order in Japan

Pyongyang has threatened “more practical and offensive” action as South Korean and US forces have performed annual springtime exercises since March, some involving Japan, which the North has described as a rehearsal for nuclear war.

Washington and Seoul have been expanding their combined military drills in response to what they call North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The US has a permanent military presence in South Korea with about 28,500 troops in its bases across the country.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un recently called on his military to be ready for war.

North Korea, which declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power last year, is seeking to diversify delivery mechanisms for its nuclear weapons. Its military conducted a firing drill late last month, simulating a nuclear attack using tactical ballistic missiles.

The North, which has been under harsh sanctions by the US and the United Nations Security Council for years over its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, launched an unprecedented number of missiles in 2022, including its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile ever.

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