North Korea launched a fresh barrage of accusations on Sunday (May 26) against the United States and South Korea, alleging a dramatic surge in “hostile air espionage” near the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

This escalation comes amid a period of heightened anxieties in the region, fueled by concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program.

North Korea Claims “Wartime” Levels of Espionage

State media outlet KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) released a statement from North Korea’s vice defense minister, Kim Gang Il, who claimed the US had flown at least 16 reconnaissance aircraft, including RC-135 and U-2S strategic reconnaissance planes, and  RQ-4B drones over the peninsula in the past twelve days—between May 13 to 24.

These flights, along with alleged maritime border violations by South Korean vessels, were described as “seriously encroaching upon the sovereignty” of North Korea and reaching a level “comparable to wartime situations.

A US Air Force RC-135 lands in 2019. (Image source: DVIDS)

Leaflets Add Fuel to the Fire

Vice defense minister Kim further condemned South Korean activist groups who launch balloons carrying anti-government leaflets across the border.

These leaflets, often containing information critical of the North Korean regime, are viewed by Pyongyang as a blatant violation of their sovereignty and a tactic aimed at destabilizing their government.

North Korea Threatens “Immediate Action”

The statement concluded with a chilling warning, declaring North Korea’s readiness to take “immediate action” if their national security is threatened.

This ambiguity regarding the nature of their response has stoked regional anxieties, with experts fearing a potential escalation.