Archive footage of a North Korean missile test shown on a television screen on the South Korean island of Ulleungdo on November 4, 2022 (AFP/Anthony WALLACE)
The United States on Friday denounced the repeated firing of missiles by North Korea which “ridiculously ridicules” the UN Security Council, with the complicity of Russia and China close to Pyongyang.
Earlier, the South Korean army announced that it had deployed stealth planes after detecting 180 North Korean fighter jets, a new episode in the spectacular rise in tensions on the Korean peninsula where Seoul and Washington are conducting joint military exercises.
At an emergency meeting without a vote of the Security Council in New York, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused — without naming them — Beijing and Moscow, “two members of this Council of profiting Korea of a protective blanket” and to “give in to justify North Korea’s repeated violations and allow it to ridicule the Council”.
His French counterpart Nicolas de Rivière castigated an “unprecedented escalation and unacceptable provocations”.
After attacking Russia and China, Washington, Paris, London, other non-permanent member states of the Security Council advocated in a joint statement “unity” in the face of the “threat that South Korea North stands for international peace”.
China, an ally of North Korea, and Russia, whose relations with the West are at their lowest with the war in Ukraine, shunned this joint declaration. Their ambassadors criticized the military exercises between the United States and South Korea and accused Washington of wanting to “force Pyongyang into unilateral disarmament through sanctions and pressure”.
– Confrontation –
Before the meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, through his spokesman, “deeply concerned about the tensions on the Korean peninsula and the rise of confrontational rhetoric”.
Number of missile launches by North Korea, per year since 1984 (AFP/)
In fact, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul claimed that its forces had “detected about 180 North Korean fighter jets” mobilized in Pyongyang’s airspace.
Seoul has “deployed 80 fighter jets, including F-35As”. Planes mobilized for military exercises with the United States are also “ready” to take off, according to the same source.
These maneuvers were extended until Saturday after the apparently failed firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea on Thursday.
They are among the largest ever, with hundreds of warplanes involved on either side.
Photo released on October 17, 2022 by North Korean agency Kcna of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visiting the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy in Pyongyang (KCNA VIA KNS/STR)
Pyongyang fired around 30 missiles on Wednesday and Thursday, including one that ended near southern territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol spoke of a “de facto territorial invasion”.
– “Aggressive maneuver” –
Called “Vigilant Storm”, the American-South Korean exercises constitute “an aggressive and provocative military maneuver targeting the People’s and Democratic Republic of Korea”, denounced Wednesday for its part the North Korean regime which has threatened Seoul and Washington with “paying the most horrible price in history”.
South Korean F-35A stealth aircraft during joint exercise “Vigilant Storm” with the United States Air Force, October 31, 2022 at Gunsan Air Base, South Korea (South Korean Defense Ministry/Handout)
North Korea has always viewed these exercises between Seoul and Washington as dress rehearsals for an invasion or the overthrow of its regime.
Analysts attribute Pyongyang’s particularly angry reaction to the use of advanced F-35A and F-35B stealth aircraft during “Vigilant Storm”, seen as an ideal tool for carrying out lightning “decapitation strikes” against North Korean leaders.
North Korea had already, in September, revised its nuclear doctrine to allow itself to carry out preventive strikes in the event of an existential threat against the Kim Jong Un regime.
If North Korea’s nuclear “command and control system” is “endangered by an attack by hostile forces, a nuclear strike will be launched automatically and immediately,” the new doctrine says.
Seoul and Washington have been warning for months that North Korea is about to carry out a nuclear test, which would be its seventh.
The South Korean military will also conduct its annual “Taegeuk” exercise next week to “improve wartime performance”.