Pyongyang warned the United States and South Korea not to take any “aggressive” actions during their joint military exercise, pledging to respond to any such moves with a nuclear attack against Washington and Seoul.
North Korea’s shrill threat came after the defection of a senior North Korean official, Fox News reported, and plans by the US to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea.
The rogue state warned that any attempt to catch North Korea off-guard would be met with a nuclear response, adding that the respective capitals of South Korea and the US would be turned into “a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike”.
Despite the rhetoric, however, experts say the North Korean military lacks such far-reaching capabilities.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has, like his father Kim Jong Il, shown a flair for over the top claims and hyperbolic threats.
Nevertheless, the Korean peninsula, where 25,000 American servicemen and women are currently deployed, remains a hotspot, with fears North Korea’s increasingly desperate leadership could attempt other provocations to distract from a recent string of defections.
On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun Hye warned Pyongyang could be planning terror attacks or outright military assaults to bolster domestic morale.