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North Korea accuses US, regional allies of seeking to form ‘Asian NATO’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of South Korea and US Special Forces take part in joint war games at the Gunsan Air Force base in Gunsan, South Korea, on November 12, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

North Korea has slammed joint US-led war games with Japan and South Korea as a prelude to forming an “Asian version of NATO” and having a “sinister aim” against Pyongyang.

“The scheme for formation of the US-Japan-South Korea military alliance, motivated by Japan’s and South Korea’s kowtowing to the US, is evidently a dangerous prelude to the creation of ‘Asian version of NATO,’” North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said in a Wednesday report, accusing Washington of fomenting a new Cold War.

“The US is getting hell-bent on the military cooperation with its stooges in disregard of the primary security demand and concern by Asia-pacific countries,” the report said, reacting to recent joint war games by US, South Korean, and Japanese forces, as well as the attendance of leaders from Tokyo and Seoul in the annual summit of the US-led NATO military alliance.

The US military conducted joint naval exercises off Okinawa, with the participation of a US aircraft carrier and South Korean destroyers, as well as separate war games with Japan, flying warplanes above waters in the Korean Peninsula.

The KCNA report came just hours before Japanese and South Korean leaders were due to take part for the first time in the annual summit of the Western alliance in the Spanish capital of Madrid as observers. Top officials from Tokyo and Seoul are scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden at the NATO summit to discuss North Korea, marking the first such trilateral summit since 2017.

The military forces of the three countries will further join to carry out combined missile detection and tracking maneuvers – dubbed Pacific Dragon – near the US island of Hawaii in August.

The development came shortly after North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of setting up a NATO-style military alliance in Asia.

KCNA also published on Wednesday an article by a researcher at North Korea’s International Society for Political Research, Kim Hyo-myung, in which he blamed NATO for causing the war in Ukraine while insisting that there are “ominous signs that sooner or later the black waves in the North Atlantic will break the calm in the Pacific.”

“NATO is nothing more than a servant of the realization of the US hegemony strategy and a tool of local aggression,” Kim further emphasized.

Washington has pressed Seoul and Tokyo to cooperate more in the face of what it purports to be threats from North Korea, as well as to counter the growing influence of China.

South Korea and Japan are Washington’s closest allies in the Pacific with their military and national defense entirely reliant on the American military. Their relationship with each other, however, has been strained by historical tensions over Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910-1945.

Meanwhile, North Korea has tested a number of ballistic missiles this year, including massive intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), new hypersonic missiles, and a short-range missile potentially designed for tactical nuclear weapons.

It maintains, however, that its weapons tests are a defensive measure against threats posed by the massive presence of US forces near its territorial waters and the regular holding of joint US-led war games with Japan with South Korea.

Earlier this month, China and Russia also blamed the US for fueling tensions in the Pacific after they vetoed a US-led push for tougher sanctions against North Korea at the United Nations.

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