NORTH Korea threatened to use nukes today as it warned the prospect of war with the South was now a “dangerous reality”.
Kim Jong-un’s regime raised the stakes amid heightened tensions after a US Trident missile submarine docked in South Korea.
Credit: Pen NewsNorth Korea launched its most powerful rocket so far last week[/caption]
AFPKim Jong-un watches the test of the Hwasong-18 ballistic missile[/caption]
APSouth Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol boards the USS Kentucky at Busan naval base yesterday[/caption]
The allies are holding talks over how to contain the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Kim test fired his most powerful ballistic missile yet last week.
And he fired two more yesterday in a show of force after the USS Kentucky sailed to his doorstep.
It was the first time the US has sent a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea since 1981.
Today the North’s defence minister Kang Sun-nam issued a chilling warning that the deployment itself could justify nuclear force.
The presence of US aircraft carriers and bombers could also trigger North Korea‘s nuclear protocol, he warned.
The minister said: “The ever-increasing visibility of the deployment of the strategic nuclear submarine and other strategic assets may fall under the conditions of the use of nuclear weapons specified in the DPRK law.”
He accused the US of escalating tensions and added: “The phase of a military clash on the Korean peninsula has surfaced as a dangerous reality.”
Last year, the reclusive state codified an expansive law declaring its status as a nuclear-armed state “irreversible”.
Dictator Kim Jong-un said at the time: “The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons.”
The West is growing increasingly concerned over Kim’s missile program, which has accelerated in the past 18 months.
There have been dozens of test launches including bigger rockets that could theoretically reach US territory in the Pacific.
Kim’s scientists are also feared to have made nuclear bombs small enough to be carried on a missile, a UN report said.
This week the US and South Korea held their first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in Seoul – aimed at “bolstering nuclear deterrence against North Korea”.
The allies are also staging joint war drills with advanced stealth jets and other US strategic assets as tensions mount in the region.
On Tuesday the 18,750ton USS Kentucky entered a key naval base in Busan, 200 miles southeast of Seoul.
It is one of the largest nuke-capable subs in the world – and can carry more than 20 Trident-II ballistic missiles.
The South’s defence Minister Lee Jong-sup said the deployment demonstrates a united force against Kim Jong-un.
He said: “To North Korea, it shows the overwhelming capabilities and posture of the alliance, while it demonstrates the solid combined defence posture of South Korea and the United States to our people and the international community.”
Meanwhile diplomats were trying to establish details on a US soldier who is claimed to have defected to the North earlier this week.
Travis King, 23, reportedly shouted “Ha ha ha!” as he sprinted across the border during a tourist trip to the DMZ.
The private second class had been stationed in South Korea and was due to be sent home after being convicted of assault and damaging a police car.
Today the White House said the US government has reached out to the North Korean military through “multiple channels” trying to learn more on King’s whereabouts and welfare.
ReutersPrivate Travis King, 23, is believed to be in custody in North Korea[/caption]
APWitnesses said he shouted ‘Ha ha ha!’ as he sprinted over the border during a tourist trip[/caption]