North Korea says U.S. drills threaten to turn region into ‘critical war zone’

  • North Korea says it has no interest in talking if the US remains hostile
  • The statement warns of a response to any US military moves
  • US and South Korean warplanes conducted exercises on Wednesday

SEOUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies have reached an “extreme red line” and threaten to turn the peninsula into a “huge war arsenal and a zone of war most critical.”

The Foreign Ministry’s statement, carried by the state-run KCNA news agency, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursued hostile policies.

“The military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region has reached an extreme red line due to the reckless military confrontation maneuvers and hostile acts by the US and its vassal forces,” said an anonymous ministry spokesman. in the statement.

He cited a visit to Seoul this week by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. On Tuesday, Austin and his South Korean counterpart vowed to expand military exercises and deploy more “strategic assets,” such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to counter North Korea’s weapons development and prevent a war.

“This is a vivid expression of the dangerous US scenario that will result in turning the Korean Peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone,” the North Korean statement said.

The United States has pushed to expand military, political, and economic ties throughout Asia.

In Manila on Thursday, Austin and his counterpart announced that the Philippines had granted the United States expanded access to its military bases amid growing concern over China’s growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over Taiwan’s self-government.

Asked about tensions with North Korea during his stop in the Philippines, Austin said the US’s goal was to promote greater security and stability and that it remains committed to defending South Korea.

“We will continue to work alongside our allies and train and ensure we maintain credible and ready forces,” he said.

North Korea said it would respond to any US military move and had strong countermeasures, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary.

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On Wednesday, the United States and South Korea conducted a joint air drill involving American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to the Defense Ministry of South Korea.

“This time, the combined air drills demonstrate the willingness and capabilities of the US to provide a strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

In Washington, the White House rejected North Korea’s statement and reiterated its willingness to meet with North Korean diplomats “at a time and place convenient for them.”

“We have made it clear that we have no hostile intent toward the DPRK and seek serious and sustained diplomacy to address the full range of issues of concern to both countries and the region,” said a spokesman for the DPRK’s National Security Council. White House, in reference to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

More than 28,500 US troops are based in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

“We reject the idea that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any kind of provocation. These are routine exercises fully consistent with past practice,” the White House statement said.

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Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions. It was also seen reopening its shuttered nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

In New York, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and called for the UN’s continued attention to recent provocations and North Korea’s efforts to impose sanctions on the reclusive regime.

Guterres said any resumption of nuclear tests by North Korea would be a devastating blow to regional and international security and reaffirmed support for building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to Park’s office.

Park is on a four-day trip to the United States, which will include a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday in Washington.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul, Steve Holland in Washington and Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot, Gerry Doyle and Nick Macfie

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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