North Korea says US drills threaten to show area into ‘crucial warfare zone’

  • North Korea says not interested in talks if US remains hostile
  • Statement warns against reaction to US military action
  • American and South Korean fighter jets conducted drills on Wednesday

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

The State Department’s statement to the 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 region has reached an extreme red line due to reckless confrontational military maneuvers and hostile actions by the US and its vassal forces,” an unnamed spokesman for the ministry said in the statement.

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

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

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

Austin and his local counterpart announced in Manila on Thursday that the Philippines had granted the United States expanded access to its military bases amid growing concerns over China’s increasing clout in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over self-governing Taiwan.

When asked about tensions with North Korea while in the Philippines, Austin said the US goal is to promote greater security and stability and that it remains committed to defending South Korea.

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

North Korea said it will respond to any military moves by the United States and has strong countermeasures at its disposal, including the “most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary.

[1/2] A handout photo dated February 1, 2023 shows South Korean and U.S. air forces conducting combined air training with South Korean F-35A fighters, U.S. B-1B bombers and F-22 and F-35B fighters, the participate in the sky over the sea West Lake, in South Korea. South Korean Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS


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

“This time’s combined air exercises demonstrate the US will and ability to provide a strong and credible enhanced deterrent against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

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

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

More than 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War that ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

“We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as a provocation. These are routine exercises that are fully 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.

In New York, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday and called on the United Nations to continue paying attention to recent provocations and efforts by North Korea to impose sanctions on the withdrawn regime.

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

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

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

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