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 response announcement warns against any military action by the US
  • US and South Korean warplanes conducted drills on Wednesday

SEOUL, Feb 2 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies had reached the “extreme red line” and turned the peninsula into a “massive war arsenal and a more difficult war zone.” “

A Foreign Ministry statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang is not interested in talks as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.

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

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

“This is a vivid expression of the dangerous US mission that will turn the Korean peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a critical war zone,” the North Korean statement said.

It pushed the United States to expand its military, political, and economic ties across Asia.

In Manila on Thursday, Austin and his party there announced that the Philippines has allowed the United States to expand access to military bases amid rising concerns about China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea dispute and tensions over self-ruled Taiwan.

Asked about ending tensions with North Korea in the Philippines, Austin said the U.S.’s goal was to promote greater security and stability and remained committed to defending South Korea.

“We are working with our allies and our comrades and comrades and we will keep our forces loyal and ready,” he said.

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

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Combined drills

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

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

In Washington, the White House rejected the North Korean proposal and reiterated its willingness to meet with North Korean diplomats at a time and place.

“We have stated that we have no hostile attitude toward the DPRK and seek a serious and consistent diplomacy to address the full range of issues of concern to both the nation and the region,” said a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Council, North Korea’s official name.

More than 28,500 American troops were stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in more clothing than a peace treaty.

“We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region are any escalation. These exercises are fully consistent with past practice,” the White House said.

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

In New York, the foreign minister of South Korea, Park Jin, met with Antonio Guterres on Wednesday at the United Nations Secretariat and called for continued attention to North Korea’s recent provocations and efforts to implement sanctions on the reclusive regime.

Guterres said any denial of nuclear testing by North Korea would be a devastating blow to regional and international security, and pledged support for building a stable 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 Anthony Blinken in Washington on Friday.

I’m looking for Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Choi Soo-hyang 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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