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North Korea accuses U.S., Japan, South Korea of seeking 'Asian NATO'

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North Korean state media on Wednesday accused the United States, Japan and South Korea of conspiring to form an "Asian NATO" as the secretive regime prepares to conduct a nuclear test. File Photo by Yonhap
North Korean state media on Wednesday accused the United States, Japan and South Korea of conspiring to form an "Asian NATO" as the secretive regime prepares to conduct a nuclear test. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, June 29 (UPI) -- North Korean state media slammed cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea on Wednesday, accusing the allies of looking to create an "Asian version of NATO" ahead of security talks among the countries' leaders.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was scheduled to huddle with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Madrid on Wednesday, marking the first trilateral meeting of the countries since 2017.

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Washington has been pushing for Seoul and Tokyo to resolve their differences amid threats from North Korea and increasing assertiveness from China in the region.

"The U.S. is getting hell-bent on the military cooperation with its stooges in disregard of the primary security demand and concern by Asia-Pacific countries," an article in state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

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Earlier this month, the three countries agreed to conduct a joint missile defense exercise in August -- a move that the KCNA article described as a "dangerous prelude to the creation of 'Asian version of NATO.'"

Yoon and Kishida are making their countries' first-ever appearances as observers at the NATO Summit, which runs until Thursday.

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People walk in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, on Tuesday as world leaders and delegates attend a dinner ahead of the NATO summit. Photo by Paul Hanna/UPI

A separate KCNA article by Kim Hyo Myong, identified as a researcher at the Society for International Politics Study, called NATO "nothing but a perpetrator of the U.S. hegemonic strategy" and a "tool for local invasion."

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"NATO is responsible for bringing a disaster to Eastern Europe," the article said, calling Yoon a "bullet shield" for the organization's expansion into Asia.

Biden, Yoon and Kishida will discuss ways to contain Pyongyang's growing provocations at their meeting in Madrid Wednesday, according to U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

The trilateral summit will be "focused on the continuing threat from [North Korea], particularly after an extended period of intense testing and other provocative activities that the North Koreans have undertaken," Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday.

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Pyongyang has conducted at least 18 rounds of weapons tests since the beginning of the year and is poised for its seventh nuclear detonation at any time, according to officials in Washington and Seoul.

"[A nuclear test] will come as no surprise," South Korean Unification Minister Kwon Young-se told reporters Monday. "Everything is ready. What is left is the political decision."

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