North Korea threatened Wednesday to take unspecified countermeasures if South Korea and the United States go ahead with their plan to conduct joint military exercises planned for March.
Despite North Korea's repeated calls for a suspension in recent weeks, South Korean military officials confirmed earlier this week that it will carry out its joint military drills with the U.S. in March as scheduled.
Two major joint drills -- Key Resolve and Foal Eagle -- are expected to kick off in South Korea in March, involving large-scale forces from South Korea and the U.S. Last year's Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises drew more than 12,000 American soldiers and some 210,000 South Korean troops.
"The U.S. should at least halt its Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises in accordance with our pacifist efforts and the overall trend," North Korea's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in a report. "If (they) push ahead with joint military drills again, our military and people cannot help taking defensive counteraction to safeguard the sovereignty and dignity of the country."
The newspaper also called into question the nature of the joint drills that "mobilize a massive number of nuclear-war equipment,"saying that such exercises will clearly weaken inter-Korean relations.
South Korea and the U.S. claim their joint military exercises are purely defensive, but Pyongyang has denounced them as a rehearsal for the invasion of North Korea.
In a separate article, the newspaper bashed the U.S. for "fanning a war atmosphere," claiming that its joint drills with South Korea "not only target the North" but "to realize its ambition to dominate Northeast Asia and the rest of the world."
Earlier this month, the North suggested that it will halt further nuclear tests if the U.S. suspends the joint military drills this year. The U.S., however, squarely rejected the proposal, labeling it an "implicit threat."
The North's threat comes as it has remained silent on Seoul's offer in late December to hold high-level talks. (Yonhap)