North Korea says U.S. drills have pushed situation to ‘extreme red-line’ -KCNA

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

The statement 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 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.

The statement 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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North Korea will respond to any military move by the United States and has strong countermeasures at its disposal, including “the most overwhelming nuclear power” if necessary, the statement added.

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.

Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests banned by United Nations 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Nations to continue paying attention to recent provocations and efforts by North Korea to impose sanctions on the withdrawn regime.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 North Korea’s additional nuclear test will 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.

The United States and South Korea on Wednesday 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.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Edited by Jonathan Oatis, Bill Berkrot and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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