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North Korea warns of 'unprecedented' response to U.S. military exercises

North Korea warned Friday that it would respond to planned U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises with "unprecedently persistent and strong counteractions," state media reported. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korea warned Friday that it would respond to planned U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises with "unprecedently persistent and strong counteractions," state media reported. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- North Korea warned Friday of "unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions" to planned joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang has long condemned as preparations for an invasion.

In a statement released by the North's Foreign Ministry, an unnamed representative said Seoul and Washington have "resorted to the worrying military demonstration from the outset of the year to seriously encroach upon the security interests of the DPRK."

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

The spokesman called the allies "arch criminals deliberately disrupting the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region."

The United States and South Korea have stepped up their joint military drills in recent months, including a return to full-scale field exercises for the first time since 2018.

The allies plan to hold their annual springtime drills, called Freedom Shield, in March. South Korea's Defense Ministry said Friday the two sides would also conduct a planned tabletop exercise at the Pentagon next week to prepare for potential nuclear attacks from the North.

The computer simulation will "focus on North Korea's nuclear threat, and will include in-depth discussions on various measures to strengthen U.S. extended deterrence, such as information sharing and consultation procedures between the two countries," the ministry said in a statement.

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During a visit to Seoul last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that there would be more frequent deployments of U.S. strategic assets, such as advanced stealth jets and aircraft carriers, to South Korea.

"In case the U.S. and [S]outh Korea carry into practice their already-announced plan for military drills, which the DPRK ... regards as preparations for an aggression war, they will face unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions," the North Korean statement said.

On Thursday, Seoul declared the North Korean regime and military "enemies" for the first time in six years in its biennial defense policy white paper, citing Pyongyang's growing nuclear threat and hostile stance.

The North conducted a record number of missile launches in 2022 and showed off several of its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles at a military parade last week. The ICBMs are believed capable of reaching anywhere in the United States and can potentially be fitted with multiple nuclear warheads.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently called for "an exponential increase" of the country's nuclear arsenal and ordered the mass production of lower-yield tactical nuclear weapons, which are designed to be used on the battlefield.

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