North Korea: Return of US aircraft carriers aggravates tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (HPD) — North Korea warned Saturday that the return of a U.S. aircraft carrier to the vicinity of the Korean peninsula would cause a “huge and considerable negative impact” on regional security, while defending its latest missile tests as an “appropriate reaction” to the intimidating military maneuvers of its rivals.

The North Korean Defense Ministry’s statement came a day after the USS Ronald Reagan jet carrier began a new round of naval exercises with South Korean warships off the eastern coast of the peninsula. The Reagan and her battle group returned to the area after Pyongyang earlier in the week fired a powerful missile over Japan to protest the US ship’s previous maneuvers with Seoul.

Reagan’s mobilization is “an event of enormous and considerable negative impact on the regional situation,” said an unidentified spokesman for the North Korean ministry in statements broadcast by state media. “The (North Korean) military is seriously treating the extremely worrying development of the current situation.”

The spokesman called the Reagan’s return “a kind of military bravado” to issue a warning about North Korea’s “just reaction” to “extremely provocative and threatening joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea.”

Pyongyang views military exercises between Washington and Seoul as a rehearsal for an invasion and is especially sensitive if they involve US strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier. North Korea has argued that it was forced to develop a nuclear weapons program to deal with nuclear threats from the United States. US and North Korean officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking the secretive nation.

In the past two weeks, North Korea has fired 10 ballistic missiles into the sea in five separate episodes, adding to this year’s record for weapons tests. The latest tests included a nuclear-capable missile that flew over Japan for the first time in five years and proved to have a range that would strike the US Pacific territory of Guam, among other places.

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