Kim Yo-jong
© AP/Ahn Young-joonKim Yo-jong during a news program
Seoul Railway Station South Korea • February 20, 2023
Pyongyang said any American efforts to interfere with its weapons tests would be considered a "clear declaration of war".

North Korea has vowed to respond with "overwhelming" force should the US military attempt to intercept missiles fired during test launches. The warning came hours after Washington and Seoul carried out their latest round of air drills in the region, which involved at least one nuclear-capable bomber.

In a statement on Tuesday, Kim Yo-jong - the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a senior figure in the ruling Workers' Party - responded to a recent press report citing a high ranking US military official, who said the Pentagon would immediately intercept any long-range missile fired into the Pacific by the DPRK.

In comments carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), she said:
"If a military response such as an interception follows our strategic weapons test, which is conducted without any harm to the safety of neighboring countries in the high seas and airspace not under the jurisdiction of the United States, this will undoubtedly be regarded as a clear declaration of war."
She added that the North would be closely watching all military movements by the US and the "South Korean puppet army," declaring Pyongyang is prepared to respond with "striking, swift and overwhelming action at any time."

The rebuke came on the heels of joint air drills carried out by the US and South Korea on Monday, in which at least one nuclear-capable B-52H strategic bomber flew alongside South Korean warplanes as a show of force against the DPRK. Similar exercises were also launched last Friday, including a US B-1B bomber, while yet another drill will be held next week to simulate a response to a North Korean missile attack.

Washington and Seoul chose to stage the drills despite repeated objections from Pyongyang, which has denounced such exercises as preparations for an attack, also warning they may lead to "unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions."

Over the weekend, North Korea appealed to the United Nations to stop the drills altogether, calling on the international community to "strongly urge the US and South Korea to immediately halt their provocative remarks and joint military exercises." Kim Son-gyong, a top Foreign Ministry official, lamented that the global body has never condemned the war games despite their "clear aggressive nature," going on to accuse Washington and Seoul of "irresponsibly raising the level of confrontation" in the region.