North Korea has lashed out at the US after it conducted joint bomber drills with the South Korean air force, accusing it of reckless provocation.
Pyongyang described the exercise, which involved two B1-B bombers, as a “nuclear bomb-dropping drill” that made nuclear war more likely. North Korean state media described US President Donald Trump as a “warmonger”.
The outburst came as the officials said that a controversial US missile defense system was up and running in South Korea — albeit in a limited capacity. That announcement came a week before presidential elections in South Korea that are expected to bring in a government critical of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD.
Moon Jae-in, the frontrunner in South Korea’s Presidential election which takes place on May 9, has expressed skepticism over THAAD.
Throughout his campaign he’s called for its deployment to be decided by the next government.
Speaking to South Korean radio station BBS FM on Tuesday, Moon said the deployment was “not a done deal yet,” and should be based on public consultation and a vote in the country’s National Assembly.
Moon’s Democratic Party is currently 20 points clear of its nearest rival, according to the most recent Gallup Korea daily opinion poll. Around 40% of voters surveyed said they favored Moon, compared with 24% for centrist candidate Ahn Cheol-soo.
THAAD is designed to shoot down short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the latter stages of their flight as they plunge toward their targets.
While this means it cannot act against the type of intermediate-range missiles North Korea has been testing in recent months, THAAD also includes a sophisticated radar that will fit into an overlapping series of US missile defense systems, including Aegis warships operating in the Pacific and Patriot missile batteries deployed to Japan.
The radar could provide critical early tracking data to these missile interception systems, as well as those protecting Guam, the closest US territory to North Korea.