US-South Korea military drills and “confrontational warmongering” from US officials has made war inevitable, a spokesman for North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out?” the spokesman said in a statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it.”
The official added that the outbreak of war was an “established fact” due to the joint exercises and threats from the United States.
Despite this fiery rhetoric, it was reported on Thursday that Pyongyang was ready for direct talks with the US. According to the Guardian, Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, passed the message to his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, when the two diplomats met in Vienna. Tillerson is yet to respond to the offer.
The US and South Korea have been conducting their largest ever combat drills as part of the annual “Vigilant Ace” exercises. A total of 230 aircraft, including a range of the US military’s most advanced stealth warplanes, are featured in the exercises.
Tensions have once again escalated on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date which it says can reach the mainland United States.
The test was once again met with international condemnation but leader Kim Jong Un’s resolve in developing a nuclear arsenal is showing no signs of abating.
On Wednesday, a US B-1B bomber flew from the Pacific US-administered territory of Guam to join the exercises, which will run until Friday.
The flights by the B-1B, one of America’s largest strike aircraft, have played a leading role in Washington’s attempts to increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its weapons programme.
In September, B-1Bs were among a formation of US military aircraft that flew further north up North Korea’s coast than at any time in the past 17 years, according to the US Pacific Command.
That prompted North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, to warn that the North could shoot down the US bombers even if they did not enter North Korean airspace.
China, North Korea’s neighbour and lone major ally, again urged calm and said war was not the answer.
“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.”
Additional reporting by Reuters