WASHINGTON (Reuters) -North Korea on Tuesday again demanded that the United States and South Korea halt joint military exercises, saying such “rashness and provocation can be no longer tolerated,” while the White House said concern remains high about the potential for a North Korean nuclear test.
The United States and South Korea began one of their largest combined military air drills on Monday, which will involve hundreds of warplanes from both sides staging mock attacks 24 hours a day for the better part of a week.
In denouncing the drills in a statement carried by North Korea’s official news agency, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, warned the United States and South Korea against any attempt to attack.
“If the U.S. and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK’s armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the U.S. and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history,” the statement said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.
It demanded that Washington and Seoul “stop their frantic ‘military games’ and provocative remarks.”
“In the present situation, it is a big mistake to accept this as a threat warning only, the statement said. “Such military rashness and provocation can be no longer tolerated.”
North Korea’s foreign ministry on Monday demanded an end to the drills, saying they could draw “more powerful follow-up measures” from Pyongyang.
The two Koreas are still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace agreement.
North Korea and South Korea remain technically at war since an armistice agreement ended fighting in the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Washington and Seoul believe North Korea may be about to resume testing of nuclear bombs for the first time since 2017 and have embraced a strategy of “deterring” Pyongyang through major military drills that some current and former officials say may worsen tensions.
White House security spokesman John Kirby was asked at a regular briefing on Tuesday whether there was concern that North Korea might conduct a nuclear test when the G20 meets in Bali in the middle of the month.
“In general, our concern remains high,” Kirby said.
U.S. President Joe Biden, whose fellow Democrats face tough midterm elections on Nov. 8, is due to travel to Cambodia from Nov. 12-13 to participate in a U.S.-ASEAN summit and the East Asia Summit and then to Indonesia from Nov. 13-16 for the G20.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom; editing by Grant McCool)