South Korea conducts the yearly exercises, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, with the US and other allies “to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula”, according to a statement from the Korea-US Combined Forces Command, CNN reported.
“The further Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises are intensified, the strongest military counteraction the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) will take to cope with them,” a spokesman for North Korea’s National Defence Commission (NDC) said on Saturday.
A State Department official said on Saturday it was aware of the threats. The exercises were transparent, defence-minded and are designed to increase the readiness of South Korea and the region, the State Department official said.
“These exercises are a clear demonstration of the US commitment to the alliance,” the official said.
While threatening military action was nothing new for the regime (Kim Jong Un told his troops they should be ready to fight a “sacred war” in the days leading up to the exercises in 2012, for example), the rhetoric coming out of Pyongang seems particularly ratcheted-up this time around.
“The army and people of the DPRK are no longer what they used to be in the past when they had to counter the US nukes with rifles,” the NDC spokesman continued, saying North Korea “is the invincible power equipped with both [the] latest offensive and defensive means unknown to the world…”
A state television report repeated the claim that this is not the same old, ill-equipped North Korea that never could stand up to the US in the past. In fact, this year, they are threatening to attack the US on its own soil.
“If (the) US wants their mainland to be safe,” said a newswoman for the state TV station, KCNA, “then the Ulchi Freedom Guardian should stop immediately.”