EOUL (AA) – North Korea threatened the United States and South Korea with “merciless pre-emptive” attacks if they go ahead with “a treacherous nuclear war drill,” in a statement released by the reclusive state’s official news agency Sunday.
The warning was issued on the eve of the so-called Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, a four-day military drill held by the U.S. and South Korea annually.
“When we attack, the puppet regimes of the U.S. and the South will only have themselves to blame when they are beaten,” said a military spokesperson quoted by the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea has long objected to joint drills between American and South Korean troops, condemning them as a preparation for war and using them as a justification for its own provocations.
Last Friday, the North launched five projectiles into the East Sea to mark its 17th test of rockets or missiles this year alone – despite objections from the United Nations Security Council.
Ostensibly the Ulchi Freedom Guardian is defensive in nature, aimed at preparing for emergencies such as a North Korean invasion.
The KCNA statement claimed that the North’s military has “already entered” into a combat ready posture.
The reality of a “merciless” response from the North’s perspective, based on past experience, might include further tests of its own military capabilities – potentially an oft-threatened nuclear test to follow up the country’s third ever last year.
Of equal concern to South Korea may be that the North has still not formally responded to last week’s proposal of high-level talks.
Seoul’s unification ministry had been hoping to tackle issues of “mutual” interest, including the possibility of repeating February’s family reunions for relatives still separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
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