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(LEAD) U.S. forced to intensify joint military drills in response to N. Korean provocations: State Dept.

05:00 March 14, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from National Security Advisor Sullivan in paras 10-13)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 13 (Yonhap) -- The United States is left with no other choice but to enhance its joint defense capabilities with South Korea as North Korea continues to make provocations that threaten its ally, as well as U.S. troops stationed there, a state department spokesperson said Monday.

Ned Price made the remarks after North Korea fired what it called "strategic cruise missiles" from a submarine over the weekend.

"We are aware of the DPRK's submarine launched cruise missile tests. As we have said in the context of similar actions, these only serve to heighten tensions in the region," the department press secretary told a daily press briefing.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing at the department in Washington on March 13, 2023 in this captured image. (Yonhap)

The North's latest missile provocation came as South Korea and the United States kicked off a large-scale joint military exercise, Freedom Shield, against which Pyongyang earlier said it will take "overwhelming actions."

North Korea fired an unprecedented 69 ballistic missiles last year, while periodically accusing joint military drills of the allies of forcing it to take such actions.

Price dismissed the argument, insisting that North Korean provocations are forcing the U.S. and its allies to intensify their military drills instead.

"Unfortunately, the DPRK has put us in a position to have to reinforce, in tangible ways, the security commitment that we have," he said.

"They have made the security environment in Northeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region all the more dangerous, all the more threatening to our deployed troops, to Americans in the region and, of course, to our key allies in ROK," he added, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said North Korean provocations will not prevent the U.S. from maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula.

"We are not going to let any steps North Korea takes deter us or constrain us from the actions that we feel are necessary to safeguard stability on the Korean Peninsula," he told reporter on board Air Force One, en route to San Diego where President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with his Australian and British counterparts.

Sullivan said the U.S. is still studying the meaning of the latest North Korean missile launch in terms of their capabilities, noting the North first tested a submarine launched missile capability in 2016.

"They have been refining it. They have been trying different iterations of it," he said when asked if the launch marked a new capability.

Price insisted North Korean provocations force the U.S. to "continually" reaffirm its security commitment to its ally.

"We would much rather be engaging in dialogue and diplomacy, and advance in real ways the vision of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he told the press briefing.

The department spokesperson noted an additional nuclear test by North Korea would constitute a "dangerous provocation" that would require a concerted action by the United Nations Security Council.

"We have said for a number of months now that the DPRK has finalized all of the steps that it would need to take to conduct what would be its seven nuclear test. A seven nuclear test would be a dangerous provocation that would itself constitute a significant threat to peace and security in the region," he said.

"The entire world would need to respond in a case like that. Countries on the Security Council, especially the permanent five, we would expect to see, hope to see I should say, a concerted action in response to such a destabilizing event," added Price.



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