Anxiety over the escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea has even reached Russia, whose foreign minister warned today that the exchanges ran the danger of spiraling out of control.
North Korea put its missile forces on high alert and American stealth bombers flew training bomb runs over the Korean Peninsula. Both actions are viewed by some as chest-thumping displays of force.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said from Moscow that the tit-for-tat moves were becoming a “vicious cycle” that could “simply get out of control,” according to Reuters.
Lavrov said Russia is concerned that “unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity.”
In what appeared to be a not-too-subtle warning to North Korea, the United States military announced yesterday that two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers flew on a 6,500-mile nonstop mission from Missouri to South Korea, dropping dummy munitions on an island bombing range there and immediately returning home without refueling.
The U.S. Strategic Command said the trip was intended to show how the U.S. can conduct long-range strikes quickly. Known as a stealth bomber and resembling some sleek futuristic gizmo out of a Batman movie, the B-2 is designed to fly undetected by Soviet-era radar.
But the message was clearly meant for North Korea, whose leaders have been issuing increasingly bombastic threats that it would turn South Korea into a “sea of fire.”
In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his medium- and long-range missile forces to be on standby for a possible attack on Hawaii, Guam and South Korea, according to KCNA, the official North Korean news agency.
KCNA said Kim had “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said yesterday that “these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously, and we’ll respond to that.”
“The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous,” Hagel said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything extraordinary or provocative or out of the … orbit of what nations do to protect their own interests.”
Last week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries also signed a “counter-provocation” plan, which detailed how a combined U.S.-South Korean response to any such future incident might play out.