- (Photo: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)
As Pope Francis delivered an Easter Sunday message of peace, the U.S. sent out fighter jets to the Korean peninsula for military drills amid rising tensions and the danger of war.
"Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow," Pope Francis stated, speaking in Italian. He was speaking in his first Easter Sunday address since being appointed leader of the Roman Catholic Church, greeting over 250,000 people from the central balcony at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
He also prayed that Jesus would inspire people to "change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace," Reuters reported.
The pope's message of hope comes at a time when tensions between North Korea and the U.S. are at a dangerous level. Last month, the Pacific nation said that it is ending its Armistice Agreement with South Korea from 1953, though the two neighbors have technically been at a state of war for over 60 years.
North Korea has also been aiming weekly threats at the U.S., boasting about its nuclear weapon capabilities and undergoing drills in the face of U.N. regulations. In response, the U.S. has now sent out F-22 stealth fighter jets to South Korea to participate in joint military drills and get ready for any action the North might take.
"[North Korea] will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia," U.S. military reps in South Korea said in a statement on Sunday.
North Korea had warned on Saturday that it is ready to "blow up U.S. bases for aggression in its mainland and in the Pacific operational theatres including Hawaii and Guam," Fox News reported.
The U.S. and much of the rest of the world remain unsure how to respond to North Korea's warnings. The White House has said that it takes such threats seriously, but also noted the North's history of "bellicose rhetoric."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed that more than a dozen missile interceptors will also be added to the 26 already in place at Fort Greely, Alaska.
Many had expressed hopes following the death of North Korea leader Kim Jong-il that his son, Jim Jong-un, would lead the country to more peaceful relations with the rest of the world, but analysts have said that the 30-year-old leader might be trying to flex his muscles and stamp his authority as leader with the latest threats.