By Josh Smith
SEOUL (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday the exercises by the United States and its allies have reached an “extreme red line” and threaten to turn the peninsula into a “huge arsenal of warfare and a most critical war zone “.
The Foreign Ministry statement, reported by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursued hostile policies.
“The military and political situation in the Korean peninsula and the region has reached an extreme redline due to the reckless military confrontation maneuvers and hostile acts of the United States and its client forces,” an unnamed ministry spokesman said in the statement. .
He mentioned 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 perilous US scenario that will result in turning the Korean peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a most critical war zone,” the North Korean statement said.
The United States has been pushing to expand military, political and economic ties across Asia.
In Manila on Thursday, Austin and his counterpart announced that the Philippines has given the United States expanded access to its military bases amid growing concern about China’s growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over Taiwan self-rule.
When asked about tensions with North Korea during his stop in the Philippines, Austin said the US goal was to promote greater security and stability and that he remained committed to defending South Korea.
“We will continue to work alongside our allies and train and make sure we maintain credible and ready forces,” he said.
North Korea said it would respond to any US military move and had strong counter strategies, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if needed.
On Wednesday, the United States and South Korea conducted a joint air exercise with American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to South Korea’s defense ministry .
“The combined air exercises this time show the willingness and capabilities of the United States to provide 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 the North Korean statement and reaffirmed 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 North Korea and seek serious and sustained diplomacy to address the full range of issues that concern both countries and the region,” a National Security Council spokesman said at the House. White, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
More than 28,500 American 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 notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any kind of provocation. These are routine exercises wholly consistent with past practice,” the White House statement said.
Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, banned by UN Security Council resolutions. It was also seen reopening its closed nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday in New York and called for continued United Nations attention to North Korea’s recent provocations and efforts to implement sanctions against the solitary regime.
Guterres said any resumption of nuclear testing by North Korea would deal a devastating blow to regional and international security and reiterated support for building a 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 in Washington on Friday.
(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)
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