SEOUL, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- North Korea said the United States and South Korea must refrain from engaging in joint exercises or its military response would only "grow stronger."
Pyongyang's National Defense Commission made the statement on Saturday, the 70th anniversary of liberation for the two Koreas, which also marks the first day in history the peninsula officially is divided into two time zones.
In a move that condemned Japan's colonial legacy, North Korea had recently announced a new "Pyongyang time" that runs a half hour behind Seoul and Tokyo.
Pyongyang's message, directed at Washington, stated that the "United States must sweep aside all hostilities, including nuclear threats and blackmail...and put an immediate end to the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercises" that are scheduled to begin on Aug. 17, Yonhap reported.
North Korea said it is prepared to deal with outside threats with "nuclear deterrents" and other "state-of-the-art" weaponry, but is willing to "adjust its response accordingly" if the United States agrees to abandon its hostile North Korea policy.
"If the joint military exercises are stopped then we can guarantee the safety of the U.S. mainland," a North Korean defense spokesman said, according to KCNA.
Earlier in the day at midnight, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Pyongyang's Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay his respects to former leader Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, South Korean news network KBS reported.