North Korean Defence Minister General Kang Sun Nam has warned at the 11th Moscow International Security Conference that nuclear war could be imminent, claiming that the United States’ intention to overthrow his country‘s government and escalated deployments of nuclear capable assets to the region were largely to blame. “Now, the question is not if a nuclear war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, but who and when it starts,” the minister warned, stressing that in 2023 alone America had deployed “massive strategic arms” to East Asia including a nuclear attack submarine, an aircraft carrier group, and strategic aircraft capable of launching nuclear strikes. “The U.S., which has been waging a hostile state policy against [North] Korea … for 80 years, blatantly interferes with the independent development and security interests of the North and pushes the situation in North-Eastern Asia to the brink of a nuclear war,” Kang said, adding that a peaceful resolution to tensions could only be achieved if Washington abandoned its belligerent and confrontational policy. Any dialogue would be impossible until then, leaving military force as “the only way to secure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
The U.S. Navy deployed its Carrier Strike Group 11 to South Korea in late March led by the country’s oldest operational nuclear powered supercarrier USS Nimitz. Subsequently in late June a U.S. Air Force B-52H strategic bomber, an aircraft designed for nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union and its allies, took part in the joint drills with South Korea. Two weeks later an Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine, the USS Kentucky, was deployed to South Korea – a class which carries 20 nuclear tipped long range ballistic missiles. The North Korean Defence Minister commented that the only way to prevent nuclear war remains for Pyongyang “to possess military means of deterrence.” “We are well aware of the fact that the aggressive intention of the US to strip us of our nuclear weapons and destroy our system through brute force cannot be changed even in the slightest,” he added. North Korea and the United States have been technically at war for over 73 years, with July marking 70 years since the Korean War armistice agreement after which conflict has been relegated to skirmishes, economic and propaganda warfare, and arms buildups among other means. The two came closest to reaching a meaningful agreement for reduction of tensions in 2018-2019 during summit meetings between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, although an unexpected last minute demand by the United States for a complete surrender of the North Korean nuclear arsenal led to a collapse in talks.
Minister Kang also highlighted that Washington was using the conflict in Ukraine as a pretext to both expand its military presence in East Asia as well as pivoting the NATO alliance towards the region, stating: “America, by referring to the events in Ukraine, stresses the connection between security issues in the Atlantic and the APAC” in order to turn NATO “which is synonymous with war and conflict” into a “global military alliance.” The statement by the North Korean Defence Minister comes as Igor Kostykov, Director of the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, has warned that the Pentagon plans to deploy two brigades capable of carrying out long-range precision strikes to East Asia. These units will be “capable of carrying out strikes with long-range precision weapons, including hypersonic missiles with range of up to 5,500 km, and ground-based Tomahawk missiles with range of 2,400 km. The Japanese island of Iwo Jima is being considered as a potential location for deployment of these weapons,” he elaborated. Such deployment have been anticipated ever since the United States withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2018, which had previously prohibited deployments of surface to surface missiles with such ranges.