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

  • North Korea says it has no interest in talks if the US remains hostile
  • The statement warned against any US military action
  • US, S.Korea warplanes conducted drills on Wednesday
  • Allies say the drills are needed to deter North Korea

SEOUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) – North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies had pushed the situation to an “extreme red-line” and threatened to turn it into a “huge arsenal of war and the peninsula is a war. more critical area of ​​the war.”

The statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington continued its hostile policies.

“The military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red-line due to the reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile actions of the US and its vassal forces,” said an unnamed ministry spokesman. in the statement.

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

“We have made it clear that we bear no ill will 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 White House National Security Council.

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

“This is a clear expression of the US’s dangerous 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.

North Korea will respond to any US military moves, and has strong countermeasures, including “the largest nuclear force” if necessary, the statement added.

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

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

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 regional partners serve as any kind of provocation. These are routine exercises that are fully consistent with past training,” the White House statement said.

Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are prohibited by United Nations Security Council resolutions. It also observed the reopening of the closed nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

In New York, South Korea’s foreign minister, Park Jin, met with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and called for continued UN attention to North Korea’s recent provocations and efforts to implement a reclusive regime sanctions.

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Guterres said any resumption of nuclear testing by North Korea would deal a devastating blow to regional and international security, and reaffirmed support to build lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, according to Park’s office.

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

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

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

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 and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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