NATO was never a defensive alliance, and its behavior since 1991 shows it

Throughout the Cold War, NATO was advertised as a defensive alliance. That was not really the case then, and certainly hasn’t been since, with NATO engaging in interventions and regime change from Bosnia to Libya.

Though the alliance’s founding document was signed in April 1949, it wasn’t until a year later that the foreign ministers of the 12 member countries sat down in London to give shape to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. On May 18, 1950, led by US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, they signed a communique establishing the permanent structures of NATO.

“This business of building for peace is a very grim business, and it has to be worked for day in and day out,” British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin said after the meeting.

How much NATO was really into “building peace” became clear in 1954, after the death of Stalin, when the Soviet Union’s new leader Nikita Khrushchev asked to join the alliance. Not only did NATO say no, the alliance invited West Germany to join. The date chosen for the occasion was symbolic: May 9, the tenth anniversary of Nazi capitulation in the Second World War.

@starsandstripes Security experts say Germany's military is virtually undeployable. For example, none of its submarines are operational and only four of its 128 Eurofighter jets are combat-ready. https://www.stripes.com/news/as-germany-prepares-for-nato-crisis-response-role-its-military-readiness-is-abysmal-1.527253 

The USSR saw this as an open provocation, and responded by establishing the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, also known as the Warsaw Pact.

After the Warsaw Pact dissolved in 1991, NATO not only remained in existence but expanded its membership and mission, usurping the role of the UN by openly intervening in Yugoslavia. The alliance’s first military action was in Bosnia (1994-95), followed by an all-out war against the remnant Yugoslavia (1999) and the subsequent occupation of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

 
© Reuters

NATO has also taken part in the US war in Afghanistan since 2001. The alliance did not officially join the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq, though many members chose to join George W. Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”

The most overt NATO military action since 1999 was the 2011 intervention in Libya. It unfolded in much the same fashion as the mission creep in Bosnia, only much faster. Within hours of the UN Security Council authorizing the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya on March 19, the US, France, UK and Canada began airstrikes.

NATO officially took over the war on March 31, flying 26,500 sorties during Operation Unified Protector until the death of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in October.

Drive to the East

Though US Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “not one inch eastward” if Germany reunified, the alliance did just that. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were officially admitted into NATO even as alliance warplanes were bombing Yugoslavia in April 1999.

Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia joined in 2002. The last former Warsaw Pact country, Albania, joined in 2009. The alliance has also expanded to include the former Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, as well as the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, bringing NATO to Russia’s doorstep.

As if that wasn’t enough, NATO pushed further, into Georgia and Ukraine. Believing NATO had his back, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili attacked Russian peacekeepers in the disputed region of South Ossetia in 2008. His NATO-trained military was disarmed in six days. NATO has continued to flirt with Georgia since, though the current government in Tbilisi doesn’t appear eager for another war with Russia.

@NATO_MARCO Four NATO ships conducting a port call in Poti, Georgia  https://civil.ge/archives/241621

The phantom menace

The most recent escalation of tensions with Russia began in 2014, after the US-backed regime that took over Ukraine in a February 2014 coup. Alliance troops have since set up bases in the far west of the country, and have been providing weapons, supplies and training to Kiev’s military and neo-Nazi militias to “counter Russian aggression.”

Under the guise of “deterring Russia,” NATO has also established permanent military bases in the Baltic States, Romania and Poland, and conducted a series of massive military drills right on the Russian border. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has condemned the troop buildup, saying in February that Washington is using an “imaginary Russian threat” to ensure its dominance in Europe.

The alliance’s first secretary general (1952-57), Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, reportedly once said NATO’s purpose was to “keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.”

NATO’s behavior since the 1990s shows not only that it has become an aggressive, expansionist body, but one serving the foreign policy priorities of the US first and foremost. With Europe now contemplating breaking from Washington over Iran, its leaders would do well to keep Ismay’s words in mind.

@Ruptly Tusk on Trump: 'friends like that, who needs enemies?'

 
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Putin: New US national security strategy is offensive & aggressive, Russia must take note

Washington's new national security strategy is "aggressive," Russian President Vladimir Putin has said, adding that Moscow will take the US stance into consideration.

Both the US and NATO have been "accelerating build-up of infrastructure in Europe," the Russian leader said Friday. Referring to the "defense strategy recently put out" by Washington, Putin said it was "definitely offensive... speaking in diplomatic language."

 
US tanks arrive at an air base in Romania

"And if we switch to military language, then its character is definitely aggressive," the president added, speaking at a Russian Defense Ministry meeting.

With NATO's build-up in Europe, the US has violated the 1987 treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, Putin pointed out.

"Formally," America's missile-defense launchers now based in Poland are meant to counter threats, he said. "The point is, and specialists know about it very well, those launchers are all-purpose. They can also be used with existing sea-launched cruise missiles with the flight range of up to 2,500 km [1,550 miles]. And in this case, these missiles are no longer sea-launched missiles, they can be easily moved to land," Putin added.

Russia's Defense Ministry "should take into account" Western military strategies, Putin said, adding that "Russia has a sovereign right and all possibilities to adequately and in due time react to such potential threats."

READ MORE: US to spend $214mn on Europe air bases on pretext of 'Russian aggression'

There are efforts to disrupt strategic parity through deployment of global anti-missile defense system and other strike systems "equatable to nuclear weapons," the Russian leader told military officials. At the moment, Russia's strategic nuclear forces are a reliable deterrent to such a military build-up, he added. However, it is necessary to develop them further, Putin said. "I'm talking about missile systems fit to steadily counter not only existing, but also future ABMs."

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2017 ‘didn’t look good’ but 2018 will bring more wars, famine & extremism – NGO

Violence and pockets of fighting in Syria and Iraq, near-famine in Yemen, and Islamic extremists steadily gaining ground in Afghanistan will make humanitarian crises around the world much worse next year than they were in 2017, an NGO predicts.

The ‘Humanitarian Overview: An Analysis of Key Crises into 2018’ by Geneva-based think tank ACAPS looks at major trends that will shape the face of the world next year. It specifically focuses on countries going through deteriorating or ongoing crises, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, South Sudan, Yemen, Venezuela, among others.

 
Internally displaced people wait to collect food aid, Somalia. File photo. © Ismail Taxta

Aross these countries, food security, displacement, health, and protection are expected to be the most pressing humanitarian needs in 2018,” the researchers said. “Most humanitarian crises in this report are driven by conflict, with a spread in violence and shifts in tactics this year in several countries.

“If 2017 did not look good, predictions for 2018 are no better: violence and insecurity are likely to deteriorate in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Syria next year,” ACAPS Director Lars Peter Nissen wrote in the report.

Islamic extremism will also continue to cause violence and conflict in various hotspots across the globe, the study said. In Afghanistan, where there is no let-up in 16-year war against the Taliban, “the security situation is likely to continue to deteriorate in 2018 leading to greater health, food security, and protection needs.”

The Islamic group is gaining ground over rural areas, particularly in the north and south of the country, as well as in territories used for opium poppy cultivation, which rose by 67 percent compared to 2016, with the production of opium rising by 87 percent.

Despite the defeat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in its main redoubts in Iraq, the terrorist group is expected to continue fighting against the government, “shifting toward the use of non-traditional conflict strategies and improvised attacks.”

In neighboring Syria, there will be pockets of insecurity, especially in Idlib, Eastern Ghouta, and Deir-ez-Zor provinces, the study predicts. The report noted that “the Astana agreements [brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran] over de-escalation zones have been a major political development in 2017, contributing to the perception of an improving security situation in Syria.”

@ACAPSproject The #HumanitarianOverview2018 report is now out: an analysis of key crises into 2018 with likely developments and corresponding #humanitarian needs. Download it here: http://humanitarianoverview.acaps.org and please share it!

Next year is likely to be “decisive for the Syria conflict,” as any real or perceived progress in establishing de-escalation zones would change perceptions of the conflict. “This would likely affect third country policies on refugees, and potentially prompt more spontaneous returns,” ACASP said.

In Yemen, ravaged by civil war and the Saudi-led intervention, “civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting.” ACASP says that over 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, and 17 million people are estimated to be food-insecure. The conflict has also prompted aid agencies to fight “one of the worst cholera outbreaks in history affecting more than 910,000 people.”

Despite all efforts, the cholera outbreak is likely to continue due to lack of infrastructure and health systems. “Continuation of the import blockade is likely to deteriorate the situation even further,” it said, adding, “food insecurity is likely to get worse, and most conflict affected areas, particularly the south and west coast, are likely to fall into famine if food access does not improve.”

 
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Threat to the world

Trump is testing all kinds of experimental actions in an attempt to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, not to mention the likely catastrophic consequences of this.

In an unspoken argument, nonagenarian and brilliant US expert Noam Chomsky affirmed, a few months before the presidential elections of his country, that if Donald Trump were elected, the world would be more than ever led to a Third World War.

The chauvinistic interests of great power that sponsored the assumption of the controversial personage have been willing to play until the last card to take U.S. to the top of the world dominion, even to the detriment of its allies, no matter the consequences that derive from this.

Thus, in a double standard policy, he says he hopes to foster a dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, but torpedoes any action that would lead to a detente in the peninsula.

The policy of sanctions and perennial threat of aggression have failed with a small nation, but with a great scientific development that has allowed it to have the nuclear weapon and the continuation of a program that, although it is not broadly known, will try to take North Korean spaceships to space, even to the Moon.

Both Russia and China have opposed the continuous punishment of Pyongyang from an international policy aggravated by the stubbornness of an empire that does not want to acknowledge that a small country be willing to face its power.

Thus, United States, I mean Trump, is testing all kinds of experimental actions trying to destroy that socialist nation, no matter the likely catastrophic consequences that could derive from this, even the damage to China and Russia, which have stated they won’t stand idly by and do nothing before such aggressive US action.

In this context, a few hours ago, the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Council of the Russian Federation, Konstantín Kosachev, denounced Washington’s war rhetoric against Pyongyang, stressed that Moscow would not allow U.S. to carry out experiments near its borders, and warned that Democratic Korea would not stand idly by before a possible military aggression from United States and its allies, which would be “very bad” for the entire world.

“The North Korean leaders will do everything possible to protect themselves from a foreign interference”. Should Pyongyang makes use of “the possibilities it has”, all this would end very badly, not only for the region, but for the entire world as well, including U.S., he reiterated.

The Russian official considers that Washington feels “somewhat more comfortable” in the crisis on the Korean peninsula, because it is at a “significant geographical distance”, so it can “afford to conduct experiments”, but Russia, which shares borders with the Korean peninsula, cannot allow U.S. and other countries that occupy radical positions here, experiment with North Korea in this way”.

In his opinion, Washington and its allies are largely responsible for the rise in the Korean crisis, which solution is definitely not military, and added that as long as U.S. and other countries remain “openly talking about the possibility of an intervention and overthrow of the regime that exists” in North Korea, Pyongyang “will continue developing its nuclear program”.

USELESS SANCTIONS

The crisis on the Korean peninsula was approached last week at UN Security Council, where Russia remarked again its opposition to new sanctions against Democratic Korea and that a military option was inadmissible, in response to the United States, which had announced it would present a resolution in that extent.

China joined Russian statements, claiming that military means are not an option before the DPRK, and “it has always firmly opposed chaos and conflict on the Korean peninsula. From that point of view, military response should not be an option”.

Pyongyang, for its part, has dismissed Washington’s threats, as well as the international pressures and sanctions against it, claiming that the more blockades it receives from the United States and its allies, the faster it will advance in its nuclear program.

Likewise, Moscow-based news agency Sputnik reported that Russia showed U.S. the red line regarding Democratic Korea, at the same time that another Moscow outlet, Nerzavisimaya Gazeta, considered that the military might of its country would not allow Donald Trump “to cross the nuclear threshold and begin a war against North Korea”.

In that context, in a comment from US news agency AP, it is inferred the imminence of an attack against Pyongyang, and it recalls that one of the main questions in the global political scenario is whether Donald Trump will repeat in North Korea the actions of former American President Harry Truman, who made the infamous decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945.

On the other hand, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, pointed out during the Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, that many people have termed the use of military options (against North Korea) “unimaginable”.

"I would probably change that statement a bit and say it would be horrible and it would cause (a large number) of deaths we have never seen in our lives. What I mean is that anyone born after World War II has never seen a loss of lives as big as the one that could happen, if a conflict on the Korean peninsula starts”, he assured.

But despite admitting how horrible a war is, the top officer stated the possibility that there are very few options to avoid the beginning of a nuclear conflict.

THE MOST VALID OPTION

Sputnik also brings up the road map presented by Moscow to de-escalate the conflict, plan that foresees the reduction of mutual and gradual threats and acts of provocations between both parties to strengthen peace in the region.

According to Igor Morgulov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, the initiative has been developed “in coordination with China, a nation concerned about the events on the Korean peninsula”. In addition, the peaceful solution of tensions is also backed up by Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea, since a nuclear conflict in the Korean peninsula would affect the South Korean population too.

This denies those claims from American military that Russia was not going to interfere in an aggression against North Korea, because the zone of radioactive contamination would not reach U.S., but both Koreas, Japan, and large areas of China and Russia’s Far East.

And if Washington thinks that Beijing and Moscow will swallow a nuclear cloud in silence, that’s probably a big mistake for Trump, as it has been confirmed by Russian analysts, who consider that “If Washington were certain that Beijing and especially Moscow would remain neutral” in case of an attack of the American country against North Korea, then the country of Kim Jong-un would have ceased to exist for a long time".

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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‘It is up to US to avert catastrophe of 'declared war' on North Korea’

It is unprecedented at the UN that the president of the US threatened to murder 25 million people in the small country of North Korea; now it is up to the US to prevent a catastrophe, says Korea Peace Network member Dr. Simone Chun.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho claimed Donald Trump “declared war on Pyongyang” after making inflammatory comments on Twitter.

“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he told reporters in New York on Monday.

READ MORE: ‘US declared war first’: N. Korea says it has right to shoot down strategic bombers

RT: Do you think North Korea genuinely believes President Trump has declared war on their country or is it some kind of a deliberate overstatement?

 
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump. © Carlos Barria

Dr. Simone Chun: This is the first time that a president of the US, the most powerful leader in the free world, declared a war and basically threatened to murder 25 million people in a small country such as North Korea. It is unprecedented, especially at the UN… When any leader or country is threatened, they have two options – to surrender or to resist. The North Korean response is standard and understandable: they said they are going to defend their country. There is nothing unusual. But I think the most important thing that we have to remember is that American public opinion, close to 70 percent, both Republicans and Democrats oppose any preemptive strike against North Korea. This is very strong condemnation and criticism of Donald Trump’s persistent threat to North Korea. We should really emphasize this. North Korea [gave] a standard and legitimate response.

RT: North Korea says their largest ever hydrogen bomb could be tested over the Pacific as a response to the US. Do you think that could actually happen?

SC: I don’t think it will happen if the US agreed or accepted the proposal that is on the table; the “double freeze” supported by China and Russia. I think there is still room for diplomatic solutions. I think North Korea will be willing to accept that…The US has been very… resistant to accept the proposal. Donald Trump, when he was running for president said he was willing to implement a new policy, he criticized Obama’s hard-line policy and even proposed “hamburger diplomacy” with North Korea. Tomorrow, if President Trump agrees and supports the proposal that China, Russia, and many other leaders support, I think we could avoid this catastrophic, disastrous outcome. It is up to the US to prevent and avert catastrophic consequences.

‘People try to move money away from risky assets in case of unfortunate escalation’

RT: How serious, do you think, is this latest statement from North Korea?

 
© Yuriko Nakao 
Craig Erlam: It just shows the tensions are escalating. We go a few days without hearing any comments on the issue. We hope that it is starting to fade away; we hope that tensions are starting to de-escalate. But inevitably we just keep getting fresh comments either from North Korea or from Donald Trump himself. We could see from the market’s reaction today that they are still far from immune to this commentary because of what it could potentially lead to. Thankfully, it hasn’t yet gone any further. So far, we have missile tests and military drills from the US and South Korea, for example. But fortunately, it hasn’t escalated any further. The concern today is the use of the rhetoric “declared war” is worrying people a lot. Hopefully, it will start to get defused. The problem is when you look at both sides, who is going to back down first in this war of words and I don’t see either side showing any willingness to do so.

RT: People seem to think this is just rhetoric at the moment. There is always a risk of miscalculation, isn’t there?

CE: Absolutely. And this is one of the things with the market. The markets are always going to respond carefully, but they are also going to respond early because if you got your money in the market, the longer it takes you to respond to the threat, the more money you stand to potentially lose. People do tend toward caution. That is what we’ve seen [hours after the announcement by North Korea]. We saw money moving away from the risky assets or pulling out of equities. Not on a huge level but on a minor level, moving into typically safe haven assets... Again, people are just moving their money toward safety because if anything does unfortunately and surprisingly escalate, then you would expect to see these safer haven assets, such as gold, benefit in the short term.

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New Investigation Exposes US Support for 2009 Honduras Coup

U.S. officials were more concerned with maintaining military power in Honduras than overturning the coup, the investigation reveals.

A new investigation conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, CEPR, reveals key details involving U.S. officials and their support for the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya.

RELATED: Honduran General Election Campaigning Kicks Off

The investigation, published by The Intercept, was based on military intelligence documents and interviews with Honduran and U.S. officials. It focuses on the Pentagon and the United States Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, and their interests in ensuring the success of the coup against Zelaya by the country's military.

Here’s what CEPR found:

- A top U.S. military official met with Honduran coup plotters a day prior to the coup, demonstrating that they knew about the forthcoming ouster. 
- A Honduran military official’s warning to the U.S. ambassador was met with “indifference.”
- A retired U.S. general provided assistance to Honduran military leaders advocating for the coup, according to interviewed sources, confirming previous allegations.
- U.S. military officials were guided by an “obsessive concern” with former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region as opposed to domestic Honduran issues. 

Overall, what the investigation demonstrates is that the Pentagon's main interest was to maintain close relations with close Honduran military allies, rather than overturning the coup.

“This is a story that reveals much about how foreign policy works in general, not just in Honduras,” CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston said in a statement.

“The investigation shows the often hidden roles that various actors within the U.S. foreign policy establishment play in determining and carrying out policy. What’s clear is that personal relationships matter just as much as any official policy position announced in Washington.”

RELATED: Honduras Marks 8 Years Since US-Backed Coup Against Zelaya

Prior to his removal, Zelaya sought to hold a non-binding, nationwide poll on whether to include a fourth ballot box in the forthcoming elections to usher in a National Constituent Assembly for the rewriting of the country’s constitution. The effort was intended to democratize the country’s laws, which have traditionally favored the Honduran elite. 

Zelaya had also begun forging ties with progressive Latin American governments — like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia — while joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA.

On June 28, 2009, high ranking army officials received orders issued by the Supreme Court to detain Zelaya and transferred him, by force, to Costa Rica.

In 2010, Zelaya was allowed to return to Honduras, a country that plunged into rampant violence following the coup. Since then, hundreds of social activists and dozens of journalists have been killed by suspected right-wing death squads.

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80 Dead, 350 Injured in Kabul Blast

Health ministry spokesman Ismael Kawoosi said: "They are still bringing bodies and wounded people to hospitals."

A powerful vehicle bomb has hit the diplomatic area of the Kabul.

RELATED: Blast Kill 8 near U.S. Embassy in Kabul

The blast reportedly claimed the lives of at least 80 people and injured another 350.

Civilians are said to make up a large number of the casualties. The bomb, which struck near the German embassy in Zanbaq Square, was so strong it blew out windows and doors hundreds of meters away. It detonated in the diplomatic quarter at about 08:25 local time during rush hour.

Kabul police spokesman Basir Mujahid, told Reuters that the explosion had taken place close to the German embassy but added it was "hard to say what the exact target is." Since there are many other important buildings in the area, including the presidential palace and a number of embassies.

Improvized ambulances transported the wounded away from the scene, as frantic relatives gathered at the site to try to locate loved ones.

Images of the area showed dozens of charred vehicles among the more than 50 that were reportedly destroyed. Health ministry spokesman Ismael Kawoosi said: "They are still bringing bodies and wounded people to hospitals." The interior ministry has called on residents to donate blood, saying there was a "dire need."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he "strongly condemned the cowardly attack in the holy month of Ramadan targeting innocent civilians in their daily life".

Indian PM Narendra Modi also tweeted his condemnation, saying: "Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured."

RELATED: The Afghans Are Coming!

The Taliban and the Islamic State are the main suspects. However, the Taliban promptly issued a statement denying any involvement, while the Islamic State remains mum.

The IS claimed last month's suicide bomb attack on the Nato convoy near the U.S. embassy, which killed eight civilians.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban condemned untargeted attacks that caused civilian casualties. Their spring offensive detailed that their main focus would be foreign forces, targeting them with a mix of conventional, guerrilla, insider and suicide attacks.

The U.S. has approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan and 5,000 Nato allies.

Recent Kabul attacks

8 March 2017 - More than 30 people killed after attackers dressed as doctors stormed Sardar Daud Khan military hospital

21 Nov 2016 - At least 27 dead in a suicide bomb attack on Baqir ul Olum mosque during a Shia ceremony

23 July 2016 - At least 80 people killed in twin bomb blasts targeting a rally by the Shia Hazara minority in Deh Mazang square

19 Apr 2016 - At least 28 dead in a huge explosion close to the Afghan defence ministry building

1 Feb 2016 - 20 killed in a suicide bomb attack at police headquarters

7 Aug 2015 - At least 35 people dead in separate bomb attacks across the capital

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N. Korea vows to bolster its nuclear arsenal ‘at maximum speed’

North Korea has promised to bolster its nuclear arsenal “at the maximum pace,” while blaming America for bringing the region to a brink of a nuclear war with “aggressive” joint US-S. Korea drills.

On Monday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry branded the US “the chieftain of aggression and war, and harasser of peace who is escalating tension.”

 
© RT

While the confrontation “between the DPRK and the US has lasted for more than half a century… the US aggression hysteria has never reached such a height and the situation on the Korean peninsula has never inched close to the brink of nuclear war as in the period of the recent drills,” a spokesman for the country’s Foreign Ministry said, as quoted by official North Korean news agency KCNA.

“Now that the US is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against the DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called ‘maximum pressure and engagement,’ the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence,” the statement reads.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry praised its country’s “powerful nuclear force,” which said is the only thing preventing the US from committing “the same brigandish aggression act in Korea as what it committed against other countries.” Meanwhile, the North’s two most recent missile tests ended in failure, according to the US and South Korean militaries, which track such activities.

The new comments come as the US is mulling the possibility of renegotiating the cost of stationing its THAAD anti-missile systems in South Korea, for which Washington is currently footing the bill.

US-South Korea relations were overshadowed by comments President Donald Trump made during an exclusive interview with Reuters last week, when he suggested that South Korea should pick up the $1 billion tab for the THAAD deployment that has greatly contributed to the current escalation in tensions on the Korean peninsula.

READ MORE: ‘Destabilizing factor’: Russia urges US, S. Korea to reconsider THAAD anti-missiles deployment

“I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system,” said Trump.

“It’s phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky,” he added.

 
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor (R) is seen in Seongju, South Korea, April 26, 2017 ©  Lee Jong-hyeon

While Trump’s suggestion is in line with his electoral promises to make US allies pay for Washington’s protection, it met with firm rejection in South Korea, which flatly denied there was any possibility it would pay for the system.

South Korean media then reported that US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster had called his counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, allegedly to assure him that the US would fork out for the THAAD system. However, McMaster denied “contradicting the president” when speaking on Fox News Sunday.

“The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States, you know? And that’s not what it was. In fact, what I told our South Korean counterpart is, until any renegotiation, that the deal is in place. We’ll adhere to our word,” McMaster said.

This new comment caused another round of harsh blowback from South Korea, as the country’s Defense Ministry insisted that the THAAD deal won’t be renegotiated, as it is part of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which regulates the stationing of the US’ whole military contingent in the South.

“The issue of funding for THAAD is part of an agreement reached between South Korea and the United States, and is stipulated in the agreement on the status of US forces in South Korea,” Minister of National Defense Moon Sang-gyun said, as quoted by Yonhap news agency.

“Our view is that it can’t be an issue for renegotiation,” he added.

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