South Korean K-9 self-propelled guns are seen on standby near the western border with North Korea during annual joint military drills with the United States on March 7, 2016. North Korea’s Panmunjom mission blamed the drills for tensions on the Korean peninsula on Wednesday. Photo by Yonhap News Agency/UPI
SEOUL, May 4 (UPI) -- North Korea threatened to "settle the score physically" with the United States, unless Washington agrees to a peace treaty.
Pyongyang's state-controlled KCNA issued a memorandum from the Korean People's Army Panmunjom mission on Wednesday, stating the United States and South Korea are using joint military drills as a "pretext" to allow the "phantom of war" to roam on the Korean peninsula.
Different drills are held annually and draw a strong reaction from North Korea's media outlets, although data analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies have suggested North Korea's responses to joint drills are more driven by the status of U.S.-North Korea relations in the period.
The message could also be for domestic propaganda purposes. North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Tae Song had told foreign reporters in April that Pyongyang has no desire to stop nuclear tests, and that they would continue "unconditionally."
But the memorandum issued Wednesday said North Korea's proposed peace treaty was "snubbed" by the United States.
The announcement comes at a time when Pyongyang is preparing to inaugurate its Seventh Party Congress. The state has also continued to test other weapons, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Satellite images analyzed on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, indicated North Korea is pursuing the development of better SLBMs and a "GORAE-class experimental missile submarine," according to defense analyst Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr.
The GORAE-class submarine is designed to carry ballistic missiles and was the launching point for a SLBM on April 23, Bermudez wrote.
North Korea's provocations have increased as evidence is growing the country could be under new pressures that could lead to a regime collapse or a coup.
Wendy Sherman, a former U.S. under secretary of state, said Tuesday at a CSIS forum in Washington, D.C., that "It is becoming increasingly clear that the status quo [in North Korea] likely is not sustainable, and unexpected changes, including sudden regime collapse or a coup, cannot be ruled out."
Frank discussions between the United States and China are needed, Sherman said.