North Korea blasted the United States Monday for dialing up tension in the Asia-Pacific region with "a military buildup," about a month before the start of an annual Seoul-Washington joint military drill that Pyongyang has railed against as being a war rehearsal against it.
South Korea and the U.S. are scheduled to hold their annual Key Resolve command post exercise for two weeks from late February and joint field training drill, called Foal Eagle, through the end of April to improve their joint combat readiness and capabilities to deter threats from the North.
"The U.S. has been immersed in reinforcing its military power in the Asia-Pacific region," which is "dangerous as it boosts chances of a nuclear war and brings on another round of the Cold War," said the Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper.
Bashing Washington for its attempt "to control the region with its military edge," the communist country stressed that the upcoming drill between the U.S. and South Korea "is telltale evidence that the U.S. is trying to provoke a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula."
The North has been denounced the exercises as "a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it," pointing in particular to the fact that nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers participated in the joint drills in 2013.
Despite the North's repeated call for their cancellation, the allies have vowed to go ahead with them as planned, saying the drills are defensive in nature.
Last year, Pyongyang sharply escalated tensions on the peninsula by churning out near-daily war threats against Seoul and Washington in anger over the annual drills.
Amid a series of recent peace gesture from the North to the South, including last week's proposal to hold the reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, the South and the U.S. are reportedly not going to involve U.S. aircraft carriers or strategic bombers in this year's drills.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend the ally from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
In a separate article, the North's newspaper said both Koreas are "fundamentally responsible for amending near-collapsing inter-Korean ties," in an about-face in its long-held stance of putting the blame on the South.
"North and South Korea carry unavoidable duties of resolving the tragic situation and to make delight of peace and national reunification as soon as possible," the North said, calling for the South's positive response.
Stressing its "resolutions to boost inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges," Pyongyang said it "acts with faith and has already put the decision into practice."
Seoul has dismissed the North's conciliatory gesture, calling it "deceptive," and urged the communist neighbor to show sincerity with concrete steps. (Yonhap News)