Following North Korea’s first confirmed test of a medium-range ICBM earlier this week, the hermit kingdom and the US have continued to trade provocations and threats, with the North warning on Sunday that the bombing drill led by two US B-1B Lancers in South Korea on Saturday risked sparking an all-out nuclear conflict on the peninsula.
In an editorial published in the North Korean state-run newspaper, the North Korean government said the drill was "a trivial misjudgment or mistake could lead to the outbreak of a nuclear war, resulting in a world war,” and that it posed a direct, and continuing, threat to the DPRK, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.
“The Korean peninsula is the largest gunpowder area in the world with the highest risk of nuclear war, and is the largest hot spot in the world where there is always a risk of nuclear war. [The US] is surely spreading into a new world war,” the piece reads.
The editorial also accuses the Trump administration of using the Korean peninsula to distract from the US president’s “serious crisis of power” at home.
The drill posed “a continued threat to the DPRK,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Tensions have continued to rise between the US and one of its primary geopolitical adversaries since the North’s July 4 ICBM test, which NK leader Kim Jong Un sarcastically described as “a gift” to the US on its Independence Day holiday. During his trip to Warsaw earlier this week, President Donald Trump said that he was considering “some pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s first confirmed firing of a genuine ICBM that could reach as far as Alaska. Though the US has been unable to confirm whether the North has the capability to deliver a nuclear war head, and both the US and Russia said the Hwaswong 14 missile that was launched was at beast an intermediate-range rocket. According to Pyongyang, the test successfully verified the warhead's atmospheric re-entry.
During Saturday’s drill, two B-1B bombers flew from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam to the Korean Peninsula where the bombers conducted the live-fire exercise at a range in South Korea's eastern Gangwon province, dropping weapons in a simulated attack on a missile launcher. They were joined by South Korean and U.S. F-16 jet fighters during the mission: South Korean and U.S. fighter jets conducted precision strike drills aimed at attacking enemy targets hidden underground. That drill was the second in a series of displays of strength following the North’s July 4 missile launch; On Wednesday, US and South Korean forces conducted a joint ballistic-missile drill around 7am on Wednesday, shooting rockets into the Sea of Japan.
The Pentagon has been making shows of force in recent months in response to perceived increases in tension on the Korean Peninsula. Twice in May, the U.S. sent B-1B bombers on flyovers near the Korean Peninsula, each coming shortly after a North Korean missile test.
Following the North’s July 4 missile launch, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement saying that "testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world." He added that the "US seeks only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end of threatening actions by North Korea. As we, along with others, have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea."
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the North Korea launch is a clear, sharp military escalation and the US will use the full range of its capabilities in North Korea including military force, "if it must."
And with that, the drums of war continue to grow louder…