On Monday, July 10, 2023, North Korea accused the United States of trespassing into its airspace and issued a warning regarding potential consequences for future surveillance flights.
The state-run KNCA news agency published a statement from the North Korea’s Ministry of National Defence, alleging that a U.S. spy aircraft had entered North Korea’s exclusive economic zone. Additionally, the statement criticized Washington for escalating tensions by deploying a nuclear submarine in close proximity to the Korean peninsula. “There is no guarantee that such a shocking accident as the downing of the U.S. Air Force strategic reconnaissance plane will not happen," stated the unnamed spokesperson.
The statement also referenced a few instances where North Korea had shot down or intercepted U.S. aircrafts near the South Korean border or off the coast.
On Tuesday, July 11, Kim Yo-Jong, President Kim Jong-un’s sister and Vice Department Director of the Worker’s Party’s Central Committee confirmed the accusation. She claimed that the U.S. spy plane trespassed into the country’s territories eight times, but that North Korean warplanes had successfully chased it away. Kim also warned that “in case of repeated illegal intrusion, the U.S. forces will experience a very critical flight.” She also stated that U.S. reconnaissance activities were encroaching on North Korea’s sovereignty.
In response to the accusations, the Pentagon denied the intrusion of the airplane and emphasized that the U.S. military was adhering to international law. “Those accusations are just accusations,” said Pentagon Spokesperson Sabrina Singh. Furthermore, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller asked North Korea “to refrain from escalatory action.” It was also stated that Washington expressed its willingness to engage in dialogue with North Korea, yet the latter declined the offer.
South Korea’s military also rejected North Korean claims, asserting that the U.S. aerial surveillance flights around the peninsula were part of regular surveillance activities. Joint Chiefs of Staff corroborated Lee Sung-jun told Yonhap that “(we) sternly urge an immediate halt to acts that create tension through false claims.”
The event should be understood within the context of increased animosity following North Korea’s recent series of missile tests. One notable example is North Korea’s failed satellite launch on May 31, which raised alarms in both South Korea and Japan, leading to evacuation alerts.
All in all, North Korea claimed that a U.S. spy airplane entered its territory and warned that future surveillance flights might be shot down. Both the U.S. Pentagon and the South Korean military denied the claims.
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