The warning from Seoul comes amid fears of a North Korean nuclear ?provocation?
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has threatened a swift response to any "provocations" from Pyongyang, telling his country's military on Wednesday to be on higher alert as tensions again soar between the two neighbors.
Yoon ordered South Korea's armed forces to "promptly and sternly" retaliate to the North in the event of an incident, according to Reuters, which noted concerns among officials that Pyongyang could carry out its first nuclear test in five years.
"President Yoon said strong defense capabilities should be ready to protect the country's security and national interest as the security uncertainties surrounding South Korea and Northeast Asia are growing more than ever," the president's office said in a statement.
Though it has refrained from nuclear tests, North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile trials in recent months, breaking a self-imposed moratorium declared during the previous administration in Seoul. South Korea has taken a more belligerent tone toward the North after previous president Moon Jae-in attempted a number of outreach projects, including a historic meeting at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) alongside US President Donald Trump and North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un.
Yoon met with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last week on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, where the three agreed to extend "deterrence" against Pyongyang. On Monday, six American F-35 fighter jets arrived in South Korea for their first announced visit since 2017, with Seoul's Defense Ministry stating the deployment was meant "to demonstrate the strong deterrent and joint defense posture of the US-ROK alliance," using initials for the Republic Korea, the south's official name.