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North Korea urges end to US-South drills, vows more powerful response to Washington's provocations

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)
File photo shows South Korean F-15 aircraft and US Air Force F-16 warplanes flying over South Korea during a precision bombing drill. (Photo by AFP)

North Korea has issued a strongly-worded warning aimed at the United States and South Korea, warning them against continuing their joint military drills and vowing more powerful response to US' provocations.

"The situation in the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity has entered the serious confrontation phase of power for power again due to the ceaseless and reckless military moves of the US and South Korea," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a Monday statement that was carried by the country's official KCNA news agency.

"If the US continuously persists in the grave military provocations, the DPRK will take into account more powerful follow-up measures," the statement added, using the initials of the North's official name.

Earlier in the day, the US and the South kicked off their largest five-day-long joint aerial drills with hundreds of warplanes staging mock attacks round the clock.

The war games, dubbed Vigilant Storm, feature nearly 240 warplanes conducting about 1,600 sorties, US Air Force said in a statement, boasting that the exercises were unprecedented in their size.

Washington and Seoul have markedly stepped up their muscle-flexing near the North's maritime border and airspace, as means of deterring another nuclear test by Pyongyang, which conducted its last such test in 2017.

North Korea, on the other hand, considers the drills to be an exercise for a pending invasion, and has been conducting a flurry of back-to-back missile launches, artillery fire drills, and aerial exercises since the beginning of this year.

In another part of its statement, Pyongyang said it is "ready to take all necessary measures for defending its sovereignty, people's security, and territorial integrity from outside military threats."

"If the US does not want any serious developments not suited to its security interests, it should stop the useless and ineffective war exercises at once. If not, it will have to totally take the blame for all the consequences," the ministry said.

Responding to Pyongyang's statement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated calls for North Korea to return to talks.

He, however, added that the United States' policy of seeking the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula has not changed.

US President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, took a bout of unique measures towards apparently fraternizing North Korea by initiating several rounds of dialogue with it, and even walking a number of steps into the country alongside the North's leader, Kim Jong-un.

However, Washington blew, what the North called, a “golden opportunity” at mending the situation by insisting too much on Pyongyang’s denuclearization. The emphasis prompted Kim to discredit all the steps that had been taken by Trump as disingenuous and go back to its fiery discourse towards Washington.


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