(LEAD) N. Korea warns of 'toughest' response to any U.S. military action
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout; REWRITES lead, headline; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Thursday it will take the "toughest reaction" to any U.S. military action in response to the U.S. defense chief's latest pledge to deploy more strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula to ensure its security commitment.
The North's warning came as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Seoul earlier this week for talks with his South Korean counterpart and said there would be more deployments of advanced military assets involving F-22 and F-35 jets to deter the North's evolving military threats.
A spokesman at the North's foreign ministry said the United States has been driving the security situation on the peninsula toward an "extreme red-line" and is pushing to spur further tensions through joint military drills of larger scale and scope with South Korea.
"This is a vivid expression of the U.S. dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean Peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone," the North said in an English-language statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea will "take the toughest reaction" to any military action by the U.S. under the principle of "nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation," it added.
"If the U.S. continues to introduce strategic assets into the Korean peninsula and its surrounding area, the DPRK will make clearer its deterring activities without fail according to their nature," it read, using the acronym of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea also conveyed it is not interested in any dialogue with the U.S. as long as Washington pursues a "hostile policy" toward the North, the KCNA said.
Hours earlier, South Korea and the U.S. staged combined air drills, involving B-1B strategic bombers, as well as F-22 and F-35B stealth fighters, from the U.S. Air Force, in a show of Washington's "will and capabilities" to provide credible extended deterrence against North Korea's military threats.
In a related move, the allies plan to hold discussion-based table-top exercises this month to sharpen extended deterrence. Extended deterrence refers to the U.S.' commitment to use a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally.
North Korea launched around 70 ballistic missiles last year alone, the most in a single year, amid persistent speculation it may conduct a nuclear test in the near future.
The North's leader Kim Jong-un called for an "exponential" increase in its nuclear arsenal and the need to mass-produce tactical nuclear weapons at a key party meeting held late last year.
U.S. military stages 'Elephant Walk' training with F-16 fighters
S. Korea slams N. Korea's planned satellite launch, warns of consequences
(LEAD) Japanese warship arrives in S. Korea for multinational WMD-interception naval drill
N. Korea open to high-level talks with Japan if Tokyo unshackled by past: vice FM
(LEAD) N. Korea says it will launch 1st military spy satellite in June
N. Korea's 1st military spy satellite launch likely be timed with key July anniv.: experts
Washington Declaration quells debate over S. Korea's nuclear armament but does little to contain N. Korea: experts
Five years after its full nuke armament claim, N. Korea's threat becomes real, further complicated
(News Focus) S. Korea grapples with calls for nuclear armament
Talk of 'normalizing' GSOMIA raises hope, skepticism around Seoul-Tokyo ties