North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in this undated image. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korea’s state media is continuing to warn the US about introducing smaller tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean theater while noting that a thermonuclear war could break out at any time.

Uriminzokkiri, a state-controlled website that features news from North Korea’s Central News Agency, charged in a Tuesday commentary that the Trump administration is mulling introducing such smaller nukes “in a bid to destroy the nuclear facilities of the DPRK.”

The official commentary follows other past warnings to Washington concerning the deployment of tactical nukes such as smaller nuclear-tipped missiles, bombs, artillery shells and land mines. The US withdrew such weapons from the South after the Cold War ended. But their possible rebasing in South Korea remains a sensitive issue with the North.

Uriminzokkiri said the Trump administration’s interest in tactical nukes comes against the provocative backdrop of US-South Korea naval maneuvers in the East Sea this week involving the US carrier Ronald Reagan, an Ohio-class strategic nuclear submarine and other supporting warships.

“This sheds light on the sinister scenario to provoke a nuclear war by all means so as to totally destroy the DPRK and exterminate the population of the north,” the commentary said. “Now, the Korean Peninsula is on the threshold of a nuclear disaster and no one knows at what time a thermonuclear war will break out.”

In a curiously worded line that might be intended to convey a diplomatic signal, Uriminzokkiri also noted: “As the US denies even the existence of the DPRK and tries to topple it by force, the latter’s counteractions will be inevitable.”

The commentary went on to say: “The DPRK is ready to counter the war of aggression with a war of justice and cope with the enemy’s dagger with a sword and his rifle with an artillery piece.”

Provoke Kim?

US Air Force Lt. General Jack Weinstein said in a talk at New York’s Harvard Club earlier this year that basing US nuclear weapons in South Korea could provoke the North’s Kim Jong-un to take extreme actions and might not be a good idea. Weinstein is the Pentagon’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

“(Kim) could over-react and that could be very bad for the South Korean people,” Weinstein said, noting that Kim is the kind of volatile head of state who has already ordered the killing of his half-brother and uncle.

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