In an unusually blunt threat and warning even for the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that US forces are ready to "fight tonight" in comments aimed at North Korea after an angry Pyongyang denounced the resumption of joint military exercises between the US and South Korea.
"Our force remains ready to fight tonight, and we continue to make progress toward the eventual transition of wartime Operational Control to a [Republic of Korea]-commanded, future Combined Forces Command," Austin said on Thursday.
He issued the words from Seoul at the tail end of his Asia trip this week alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean leaders. Secretary Blinken had continued his denuclearization of the peninsula message, saying, "We are committed to the denuclearization of North Korea, reducing the broader threat the DPRK poses to the United States and our allies, and improving the lives of all Koreans, including the people of North Korea who continue to suffer widespread and systematic abuses at the hands of their repressive government."
Pyongyang on Thursday slammed what DPRK first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui called a "lunatic" and "hostile" policy. The senior North Korean diplomat said of the question of denuclearization talks that there will be no contact with Washington "unless the US rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK."
She said further:
"Therefore, we will disregard such an attempt of the US in the future, too." The "new regime" in the US, she added, had only put forward a "lunatic theory of 'threat from north Korea' and groundless rhetoric about 'complete denuclearisation'".
The Biden administration has reportedly been attempting to reach out to the North via various diplomatic channels since mid-February, but to no avail.
Meanwhile the resumption of joint military exercises with the South, which had been on pause for a year with the ostensible reason given being the coronavirus pandemic, certainly won't help thaw the ongoing tensions anytime soon.