North Korea threatens to shoot down US spy planes in its airspace

Country claims US 'intensified espionage activities beyond wartime level' and vows to take 'decisive action'

A US high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft after a mission in Pyeongtaek, 60km south of Seoul, South Korea, on July 10.  EPA
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North Korea on Monday threatened to shoot down any US spy planes breaching its airspace and condemned Washington's plans to station a nuclear-missile submarine near the Korean Peninsula.

A source for the North's Ministry of National Defence said the US had “intensified espionage activities beyond the wartime level”.

They said there had been “provocative” flights made by US spy aircraft over eight straight days this month, with one reconnaissance plane intruding into the North's airspace over the East Sea “several times”.

“There is no guarantee that such shocking accident as downing of the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance plane will not happen in the East Sea of Korea,” the source said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

They pointed out past incidents when Pyongyang shot down US aircraft, and warned the US would pay for its “frantically staged” air espionage.

Late on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's powerful sister Kim Yo-jong said that a US spy aircraft had breached the country's eastern airspace twice on Monday morning, according to a statement.

Ms Kim said that Pyongyang would not respond directly to US reconnaissance activities outside of the country's exclusive economic zone, but warned that it would take “decisive action” if the US military crossed its maritime military demarcation line.

In another statement carried by KCNA on Tuesday, Ms Kim warned that the US military would face “a very critical flight” in case of a new intrusion of airspace.

The earlier KCNA statement also condemned the planned sending of US strategic nuclear assets to the Korean Peninsula as “the most undisguised nuclear blackmail” against North Korea, saying it posed a grave threat to regional and global security.

“The present situation clearly proves that the situation of the Korean Peninsula is coming closer to the threshold of nuclear conflict due to the US provocative military action,” it read.

Washington said in April that it would send a nuclear-armed ballistic submarine to make the first visit to a South Korean port in decades, without specifying the exact time.

North Korea has conducted sanctions-defying launches this year, including test-firing its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, and in May tried to put a military spy satellite into orbit.

Updated: July 11, 2023, 12:07 AM