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‘Direct challenge to peace efforts’: Pyongyang slams Seoul for deploying F-35 jets

‘Direct challenge to peace efforts’: Pyongyang slams Seoul for deploying F-35 jets
North Korea lambasted its southern neighbor as it deployed US-made F-35 fighters amid the ongoing escalation of tensions between the two nations that followed the failed summit between the North Korean and US leaders.

Pyongyang decried the deployment as an “unfriendly act” and warned that this step only “exacerbates tensions” while being “a direct challenge to the peace efforts.” A piece published on the North Korean Uriminzokkiri news portal also called on Seoul to think about the potentially “catastrophic consequences” the deployment of the new jets could cause.

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Two US-made F-35A multipurpose fighter jets were delivered to South Korea in late March. Seoul is expected to receive a total of 10 fighter jets by the end of the year. The fact that Pyongyang has returned to this harsh rhetoric after a relative thaw in relations with Seoul marks a further rise in tensions on the peninsula – allegedly provoked by the latest summit between Washington and Pyongyang which ended in a deadlock.

Earlier, North Korea abruptly withdrew its entire staff from a liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong in a move that unnerved the South. Days later, Pyongyang sent some workers back to the office, although it is still unclear if it plans to restore a full staff. Seoul, meanwhile, warned that North Korea almost finished rebuilding a long-range rocket site it had promised to close.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula began to change after the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was abruptly wrapped up without the sides reaching any agreement.

At first, the collapse of the meeting was blamed on the fact that the US and North Korea failed to agree on the terms for removing US-imposed sanctions on Pyongyang as Washington allegedly refused to consider even partial relief.

A later report by Reuters revealed that Trump allegedly proposed that North Korea transfer all its nuclear weapons to the US and completely dismantle its nuclear and missile programs. The scheme, which closely resembled the one the US used in Libya years before the NATO intervention and the murder of its long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi, apparently did not sit well with Kim.

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In mid-March, the North Korean vice foreign minister threatened to pull out of nuclear negotiations with the US altogether following the collapse of the summit. Washington, meanwhile, continues to put on a brave face. On April 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope that Trump and Kim could meet again “in the coming months” and somehow make significant headway in negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

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