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Sunday, July 14, 2024

US North Korea Tensions Soar as Pyongyang Threatens to Shoot Down Spy Planes

North Korean officials on Monday accused the United States of violating its airspace by flying surveillance aircraft and warned that Pyongyang would shoot down any such planes if necessary. In a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, a spokesperson for the North’s Ministry of National Defence said that the United States has “intensified espionage activities beyond the wartime level,” with RC-135 and uncrewed RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft conducting “provocative aerial espionage” over the country for eight straight days this month. The spokesperson said that one of the spy planes intruded into the North’s airspace over the East Sea by “tens of kilometers” several times.

The official continued that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) “will surely pay a dear price for such dangerous provocative aerial espionage.” The spokesperson also denounced Washington’s plans to deploy a nuclear missile submarine near the Korean peninsula, calling the move “the most undisguised form of nuclear blackmail” against the DPRK and regional countries.

A rep for Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff dismissed the North’s accusations and called on it to stop making such false claims. The JCS spokesperson emphasized that the reconnaissance flights did not intrude on the country’s territory and that the allies worked together to conduct them. “This kind of false claim will create tension, and we sternly demand that they stop this immediately,” the spokesperson said, according to Yonhap.

Earlier this month, a US Air Force B-52 strategic bomber flew closer to the North than any other American aircraft since the turn of the century. The mission, advertised in advance by the Pentagon, came in response to a series of recent ballistic missile tests by the North, including a nuclear test two weeks ago. It was the closest a US aircraft had come to the North’s coastline without crossing into the disputed Demilitarized Zone.

The North’s escalation of rhetoric comes amid growing skepticism about the prospects for negotiations between Pyongyang and the Trump administration. The White House has yet to officially respond to a letter from the North’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who called for an “inclusive and serious dialogue” between the two sides last week. The North is believed to be planning more missile tests, possibly including a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental United States. As a result, the US is increasing its military presence in and around South Korea. Last week, a report by the New York Times indicated that US forces are on standby to launch a pre-emptive attack against the DPRK if needed. The North is thought to have as many as 20 nuclear warheads, but the number remains unknown. Its ballistic missile capabilities are also improving rapidly. In recent tests, the North has reportedly improved the accuracy and velocity of its weapons. If it continues on this path, the country could potentially have a fully functional nuclear weapon by the end of the year.

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