North Korea is testing more ballistic missiles than ever before this year. The US now also trusts Pyongyang with nuclear tests. As a demonstration of their power, they are flying fighter jets over the Yellow Sea together with South Korea. However, they are still willing to hold talks with North Korea.
Despite the recent North Korean missile tests, the US government says it is still ready for talks with the regime in Pyongyang. The US had "no hostile intentions" towards the People's Republic (DPRK), said the US special envoy for North Korea, Ambassador Sung Kim, in a telephone switchboard with journalists. "We are ready for a meeting without preconditions and call on the DPRK to undertake serious and sustained diplomatic efforts."
He warned North Korea that the United States and its allies would react quickly in the event of a feared new nuclear test, but gave no information on how such a reaction might turn out. The ambassador said the US estimates that Pyongyang is preparing a seventh nuclear weapons test, which could happen "at any time".
Statements by North Korean officials could also "indicate the use of tactical nuclear weapons." North Korea has already tested 31 ballistic missiles this year - more than any other year, and it's only June. Kim criticized the vetoes by Russia and China in the UN Security Council at the end of last month, on which a resolution for tougher international sanctions against Pyongyang failed.
During a visit to Seoul, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned the leadership in Pyongyang against conducting a nuclear test. "There would be a quick and forceful response to such a test," Sherman said after talks with her colleague Cho Hyun Dong, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
US and South Korean forces flew 20 warplanes over the Yellow Sea in a show of force against North Korea. South Korea's general staff said the maneuver was intended to demonstrate the joint ability to respond "quickly and precisely" to any provocation by North Korea. South Korea has 16 aircraft, including F-35A fighter jets, and the United States has four F-16s.
The US has deployed 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea. The airborne operation in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula followed just a day after a missile exercise by both countries. They launched eight short-range missiles in response to North Korea's new missile tests a day earlier. The North Korean military had also fired eight short-range ballistic missiles toward the open sea. The largely isolated country is barred from testing ballistic missiles of any range by UN resolutions. These are usually surface-to-surface missiles. Depending on their design, they can carry one or more nuclear warheads.