SEOUL, July 11 (UPI) — North Korea warned the United States against sending spy planes into its territory, saying Monday that there was “no guarantee” that they won’t shoot down the U.S. aircraft.
In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, a spokesperson for the North’s Defense Ministry claimed that the U.S. Air Force conducted “provocative aerial espionage on the DPRK’s strategic interior” from July 2 to Sunday, including several flights into North Korean airspace.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
“The U.S. will surely have to pay a dear price for its provocative air espionage,” the unnamed spokesperson said.
“There is no guarantee that such shocking accident as downing of the U.S. Air Force strategic reconnaissance plane will not happen in the East Sea of Korea,” the spokesperson added, citing previous occasions when North Korea shot down U.S. aircraft.
In one 1969 incident, a North Korean MiG-21 fighter jet downed a U.S. spy plane over the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, killing all 31 crewmembers.
Pyongyang recently attempted to deploy its first military reconnaissance satellite, claiming it was necessary to monitor what it calls hostile activities by U.S. and South Korean military forces.
The rocket carrying the satellite crashed into the Yellow Sea shortly after launch on May 31 due to a second-stage engine failure.
South Korea’s military conducted an extensive salvage operation of the wreckage and concluded last week that the recovered satellite had “no military utility.”
Seoul and Washington have expanded their joint military exercises over the past year amid the North’s continued weapons buildup. The United States has also vowed to deploy more strategic assets to the peninsula and in April announced it would send a nuclear ballistic missile submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades.
The North Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson on Monday slammed the planned deployment, calling it “undisguised nuclear blackmail” and warning it may “incite the worst crisis of nuclear conflict.”
“The present situation clearly proves that the situation of the Korean Peninsula is coming closer to the threshold of nuclear conflict due to the U.S. provocative military action,” the spokesperson said.
Last week, the allies conducted a joint air drill involving at least one U.S. B-52H strategic bomber, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said.
A nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine, the USS Michigan, made a port call in Busan last month, the first visit of its kind in six years.