– North Korea will increase its military deterrent to ensure its security against a US nuclear arsenal aimed at it, its state media reported on Friday, as it criticized the United States for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.

The US Air Force launched a nuclear-capable Minuteman III missile from a base in California on Wednesday but the missile was blown up after an anomaly was detected. The test was attended by South Korean defense officials in their first such visit since 2016.

A North Korean military commentator said despite the failure of the test, the presence of South Korean “puppet military gangsters” showed that US nuclear weapons were targeted at North Korea.

“The DPRK will as ever continue its military action to bolster up the deterrence and ensure the strategic security in the Korean peninsula and the region,” the unidentified commentator said in a report carried by the KCNA state news agency, referring to the country by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The commentary also criticized the US and South Korea for various recent military steps including the deployment of US nuclear strategic bombers to South Korea.

“The nuclear threat by the US and its vassal forces to the DPRK nears a new red line,” the North Korean commentator said, calling for the strengthening of “self-defensive nuclear armed forces”.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the commentary raised the question of whether North Korea was preparing to justify another military “provocation”.

“It is clear that the current heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula resulted from North Korea’s futile nuclear development and reckless military provocations,” deputy ministry spokesperson Kim In-ae told a briefing.

South Korea held a joint exercise with the US and Japan near the Korean peninsula last month, involving a US B-52 strategic bomber as well as fighter jets of the three nations.

The US and South Korea also held air exercises involving 130 warplanes from both countries to simulate 24-hour wartime operations last month.

South Korea and the United States say their exercises are aimed at maintaining combat readiness to respond to North Korea.

North Korea denounces the exercises as preparations by the United States and its South Korean ally to invade it. – Reuters