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N. Korea says US drills have pushed crisis to ‘extreme red-line’

SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that joint drills 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, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues 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 manoeuvres and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces,” an unnamed ministry spokesperson said in the statement.

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

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“This is a vivid expression of the US dangerous scenario which 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 in kind to any military moves by the US, and has strong counteraction strategies, including “the most overwhelming nuclear force” if necessary, the statement added.

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.

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

On Wednesday the US and South Korea carried out 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 combined air drills this time show the US’ will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

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