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North Korea vows preemptive strike against South, US

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears on a screen during a confetti-filled concert at the Pyongyang Arena in May 2016.

North Korea has condemned a joint military drill between South Korea and the United States and threatened a preemptive strike.

South Korean and US troops began large-scale war games on March 1 conducted annually with the participation of American warships and reconnaissance aircraft.

Earlier this month, USS Carl Vinson joined the drill. South Korean officials say US special troops are also set to take part in the joint exercises.

"As long as the US and South Korea's troops and means … remain in and around South Korea, they should keep in mind that our military will carry out annihilating attack at anytime without any prior warning," a statement read on North Korean broadcaster KCTV said on Sunday.   

The war games called Foal Eagle will be continued until the end of April. Last year, it involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

North Korea said in a letter to the UN Security Council earlier this month that the US was using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the exercises. 

US and South Korean soldiers fire artillery during a live-fire exercise near Rodriguez Range in South Korea as part of the Foal Eagle drill in March 2012.

North Korea has protested against the drills, calling them a rehearsal for war, and responded with a series of missile tests which the West and the UN have used as a ground to impose fresh sanctions on the country.

The United Nations said earlier this week that sanctions against North Korea were taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.

Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang, said North Korea was in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”

North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile tests.

Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear program is part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.

On Friday, the US said it had imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for allegedly violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria.

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