By Brad Lendon, CNN
North Korea continued its harsh anti-US rhetoric Sunday, calling President Donald Trump a “war merchant and strangler of peace.”
The administration of US President Donald Trump is selling weapons to South Korea and Japan with the intent of enriching the makers of US arms while creating “a hair trigger situation” on the Korean Peninsula, said a commentary from state newspaper Rodong Sinmun posted by the Korean Central News Agency.
In September, a week after Pyongyang fired a test missile over Japan, Trump said he would give allies increased access to US weaponry.
“I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Trump tweeted on September 5.
South Korea was the fourth-largest recipient of American-made arms from 2011 to 2015, according to research compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Japan and South Korea are participants in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the most expensive weapons system in world history.
The North Korean commentary comes a day before a 10-day, US-South Korea military exercise is scheduled to begin around South Korea.
The drills, described as a maritime counter special operations exercise by the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, will include the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided-missile destroyers, units from the South Korean air force and navy, and the US Army and US Air Force, according to a US statement.
Additionally, the USS Michigan, a submarine packed with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Friday. The guided-missile submarine is also outfitted to deploy US special operations forces.
“Trump called for total destruction of our state and people at the UN arena, and continues to bring nuclear strategic assets into south Korea and its vicinity, pushing the situation on the peninsula to the brink of war,” Sunday’s KCNA commentary said.
The North Korean commentary comes two days after another KCNA posting renewed a threat to launch missiles toward the US territory of Guam.
North Korea first said it was examining a plan to target the Pacific island in August after Trump warned the isolated regime would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen” following a US intelligence assessment that North Korea had produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead.
“We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense, including a salvo of missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam,” Kim Kwang Hak, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, is quoted as saying in the KCNA report.
“The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the ‘trigger’ for taking the toughest countermeasure,” Kim added.
Meanwhile, reports out of the US said the Pentagon was sending a destroyer equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system to east Asia to bolster a force reduced when the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald were crippled by collisions with merchant ships earlier this year.
Experts say the Aegis system could be used to shoot down North Korean missiles sent toward Guam or US bases elsewhere in the region.
The Navy tested the system on Sunday, with the destroyer USS Donald Cook successfully intercepting an intermediate range ballistic missile during an exercise in Europe.
The test by the Navy’s 6th Fleet came during exercise Formidable Shield with NATO allies.
The test showed “the capabilities the US and our allies are developing to defeat complex, cruise and ballistic missile threats,” US Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement.
Trump touted the effectiveness of missile defense systems in a recent interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
“We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97% of the time,” he said.
But not all military and weapons analysts share that level of confidence in US ballistic missile defense systems, as they have never been used in wartime.