North Korea says its weapons programmes are necessary to counter U.S. aggression. Photograph: (Reuters)
China was recently reported to have conducted military drills over the sea bordering North Korea as a 'warning' to the United States
The United States and South Korea have begun their combined combat drills as a part of their five-day exercise called 'Vigilant Ace'.
The move came soon after North Korea test-fired its intercontinental ballistic missile which sparked a global outcry. The United States was one of the nations to have severely condemned North Korea's action and called for stringent sanctions on the Kim Jong-un regime.
North Korea's latest missile test prompted a warning from the United States that North Korea`s leadership would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out, a statement that drew sharp criticism from Russia.
While China, North Korea's neighbour and lone major ally, pressed for calm and peace all along, it was recently reported to have conducted military drills over the sea bordering North Korea as a 'warning' to the United States for holding the joint military exercise with South Korea.
Besides this, the two nations continue to proceed with 'Vigilant Ace' while North Korea takes the exercise as a threat that "makes war unavoidable".
A spokesman for the North`s foreign ministry blamed the drills and "confrontational warmongering" by U.S. officials for making war inevitable.
"The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?" the spokesman said late on Wednesday in a statement carried by North Korea's official KCNA news agency, Reuters reported.
"We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it."
"We hope all relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint and take steps to alleviate tensions and not provoke each other," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.
"The outbreak of war is not in any side`s interest. The ones that will suffer the most are ordinary people."
A U.S. B-1B bomber flew over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, as part of a large-scale joint aerial drill that has been denounced by North Korea as pushing the peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. (Reuters,Others)
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States and says its weapons programmes are necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
"Recently, as the U.S. is conducting the largest-ever joint aerial drill on the Korean peninsula targeting the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea, its high-level politicians are showing alarming signs by making bellicose remarks one after another," the North`s foreign ministry spokesman said, using North Korea`s official name.
"These confrontational war-mongering remarks cannot be interpreted in any other way but as a warning to us to be prepared for a war on the Korean peninsula," he said.
The annual U.S.-South Korean "Vigilant Ace" exercises feature close to 230 aircraft, including a range of the U.S. military's most advanced stealth warplanes and the F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighter planes.
Two American B-1B heavy bombers joined large-scale combat drills over South Korea on Thursday.
On Wednesday, a U.S. B-1B bomber flew from the Pacific U.S.-administered territory of Guam to join the exercises, it will run until Friday.
B-1B is one of America's largest strike aircraft and has been used previously in what is believed to increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons programmes.
The aircraft was also a part of the formation of U.S. military aircraft in September that flew further north up North Korea`s coast than at any time in the past 17 years, according to the U.S. Pacific Command.
While B-1Bs are no longer equipped to carry nuclear weapons of their own, they would be key to any strike targeting major North Korean facilities, he said.
"B1-B bombers have been regularly dispatched to the Korean peninsula over the past years; however, it seems that the U.S. Air Force might have enhanced its training to better prepare for actual warfare," said Yang Uk, a senior fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.
"That’s why North Korea has been making such a big deal when B1-B bombers are flying overhead."
Officials from both sides insist that they don't want war while also blaming each other for provocations. White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said over the weekend that the possibility of war with North Korea was "increasing every day".
On the other hand, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham urged the Pentagon on Sunday to start moving U.S. military dependents, such as spouses and children, out of South Korea, saying conflict with North Korea was getting close. The Pentagon said it has "no intent" to move any dependants out of the country.
(With inputs from Reuters)