South Korea will strike back quickly if the North stages any attack, the new president in Seoul warned on Monday, as tensions ratcheted higher on the Korean peninsula amid shrill rhetoric from Pyongyang and the U.S. deployment of radar-evading fighter planes.
North Korea says the region is on the brink of a nuclear war in the wake of United Nations sanctions imposed for its February nuclear test and a series of joint U.S. and South Korean military drills that have included a rare U.S. show of aerial power.
The North, whose economy is smaller than it was 20 years ago, appeared to move on Monday to addressing its pressing need for investment by appointing a reformer to the country’s ceremonial prime minister’s job, although the move mostly cemented a power grab by the ruling Kim clan.
North Korea had said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea in response to what it termed the “hostile” military drills being staged in the South. But there have been no signs of unusual activity in the North’s military to suggest an imminent aggression, a South Korean defense ministry official said last week.
The United States also deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets on Sunday to take part in the drills. The F-22s were deployed in South Korea before, in 2010.
On its part, North Korea has cancelled an armistice agreement with the United States that ended the Korean War and cut all hotlines with U.S. forces, the United Nations and South Korea.