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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean internal and external-focused media on Wednesday warned the U.S. of “catastrophic” consequences should it go ahead with rumored plans to deploy intermediate-range missiles on or around the peninsula.
In an analysis carried on its sixth page, the DPRK party daily condemned plans to “deploy new surface-to-surface intermediate-range missiles in South Korea” and recent comments made by U.S. defense chief Mark Esper during what it described as a “junket” to Australia.
Wednesday’s reporting appears to be Pyongyang’s first direct response to be carried by domestically-focused media to the Secretary of Defense’s remarks last week, in which he told reporters he “would like to” deploy ground-based, intermediate-range missiles in Asia.
Although Esper in his comments last week declined to say in which countries those missiles would be deployed, the Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday claimed that the U.S. Secretary of Defense had “clamored that he had his eye on South Korea as one of the venues.”
The analysis also condemned a recent resumption of construction at the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system base in Seongju, South Korea, slamming the “U.S. imperialist forces of aggression” — a phrase not used by North Korean media in recent months –for their conduct.
“According to the report, the South Korean military along with the U.S. imperialist forces of aggression have hastened the facility construction for the complete deployment of high altitude intercept missile ‘THAAD’,” the article, written by journalist Choe Sung Il, said.
“The complete deployment of ‘THAAD’ and the attempt to deploy the surface-to-surface intermediate-range missiles further degenerates South Korea into a dangerous nuclear advance base which destroys the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region,” it continued.
These two measures, the Rodong Sinmun said, are “anachronistic acts that trigger a new Cold War and arms race among the great powers in Northeast Asia,” warning that missile deployment in South Korea will “have greater ramifications than the ‘THAAD'” as it is a “more grave” issue.
The plans, it said, are an “outcome of the U.S.’s adventurous hegemonic strategy to destroy the strategic balance in Northeast Asia and subdue its counterparts with military dominance.”
“Such a move is an unacceptable military threat to our Republic as well as a senseless and imprudent action which intensifies the regional situation and makes the arms race become serious.”
In the analysis, the Rodong Sinmun stressed the South Korean authorities would never be able to hide “the aggressive purpose” of the development at the THAAD base and the deployment of intermediate-range missiles, nor their “identity as a provoker.”
“If the South Korean authorities blindly follow the U.S. hegemonic strategy, they could meet with a calamity bigger than the external difficulties that they underwent because of the disturbance of deploying the ‘THAAD’ during the period of the previous conservative ‘regime,’” it said — a likely reference to the unilateral sanctions imposed by China in response to the THAAD deployment in 2016.
“The South Korean authorities must know that the only things that they can face [as an outcome of] obeying their master’s reckless strategy …are catastrophic consequences and terrible regrets.”
In a rehashing of the Rodong‘s analysis, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on the same day released a commentary condemning Seoul’s “foolish act of self-destruction,” saying they risked “being bullet-shields.”
An additional analysis on the party daily’s page six, too, denounced plans by South Korea to bolster its military capabilities, including through the acquisition of additional F-35A stealth fighters.
Externally-focused outlet the Uriminzokkiri on Wednesday also reported that the U.S.’s “wicked intentions to use South Korea as a victim of realizing its reckless Asia-Pacific strategy becomes more flagrant as the days go by.”
The outlet — which targets South Koreans overseas and the broader international community — claimed that the U.S. officials, including Esper, “pointed to South Korea as the preferred location for the deployment” of new missiles in Asia.
“Any kind of act that gravely threatens peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the Asian region, including the THAAD, can never be accepted.”
Plans for missile deployment, it added, are a “manifestation of the U.S.’s shameless and robbery-like wicked intention which does not care about the life and safety of South Korean people for the sake of realizing their dirty ambition.”
“The U.S. moves are an extremely dangerous rash action, which clearly destroy peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region and trigger a new Cold War and arms race among the great powers in Asia,” the Uriminzokkiri said, reiterating comments made in the Rodong Sinmun.
“If South Korea blindly submits to the U.S. scheme, it will be the first target of the strike by neighboring countries and only charged with catastrophic disaster,” it continued. “This is a foolish act of self-destruction, like pouring oil on one’s head and jumping into the fire.”
Secretary of Defense Esper’s comments last week came just a day after the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia formally took effect on August 2.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on August 5 said the country has never reviewed the possible deployment of intermediate-range missiles in its territory and has no plan to go ahead with any such deployment in the future.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson on Wednesday, too, told reporters that missile deployment would be a sovereign decision to be made by the leaders of the relevant governments.
The U.S., she said, will not make any unilateral moves, promising to “work collaboratively with partners and allies.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Feature image: KCNA