The drills are due to take place Monday and have become an annual event for the US, South Korea and other allies, a fact that has often irked North Korea. The exercises, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are aimed to “protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula,” a statement from the Korea-US Combined Forces Command stated, as cited by CNN.
As has been the case in the past, Pyongyang has shown its displeasure, but the rhetoric coming out of the secretive nation has been stronger than in previous years.
“The army and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are no longer what they used to be in the past when they had to counter the US nukes with rifles,” a spokesman for North Korea’s National Defense Commission (NDC) said.
The spokesman added that “North Korea… is the invincible power equipped with both [the] latest offensive and defensive means unknown to the world.”
“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,” he added.
State television in North Korea has been trying to present a message to the people that the country’s military is in a better position now to counter the perceived threat that is posed by the US and its allies. Media reports from Pyongyang even claimed that North Korea was ready to attack Washington on US soil.
“If [the] United States wants their mainland to be safe,” said a newswoman for the state TV station, KCNA, “then the Ulchi Freedom Guardian should stop immediately.”
North Korea has also threatened to launch “indiscriminate” military attacks against South Korea, unless Seoul stops launching propaganda broadcasts across the border. South Korea started to resume sending loud radio propaganda messages for the first time in over a decade after a landmine attack severely injured two South Korean soldiers. Seoul has blamed North Korea for the attacks.
However, Pyongyang vehemently denied the accusations that it was responsible for the mine incident, calling them “absurd,” and its frontline army border command on Saturday demanded the broadcasts be halted immediately or risk “an all-out military action of justice to blow up all means for ‘anti-North psychological warfare’ in all areas along the front,” AFP reported.
The action will involve “indiscriminate strikes which envisage even possible challenge and escalating counter action,” the command said in a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.
Washington has brushed aside the comments coming out of Pyongyang, with a former US Army general, who had previously taken part in the Ulchi drills saying that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is just seeking attention from the international community.
“One of the key propaganda goals of the young leader is to just get on the radar of the US,” said retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who was speaking to CNN. “With all the other things we’re focused on — ISIS, al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Russia and Ukraine, etc., Kim Jong Un wants to ensure he grabs attention.”
The US-led exercises involve South Korea, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, New Zealand and the UK. The drills are expected to last for 12 days and will conclude on August 28.