North Korea warns of retaliation against US-South Korea military drills

South Korean special forces participating in a military drill at the easternmost islets of Dokdo, on Aug 25, 2019.
South Korean special forces participating in a military drill at the easternmost islets of Dokdo, on Aug 25, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea threatened on Wednesday (Nov 13) to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea, ramping up pressure on Washington to change course as a year-end North Korean deadline for US flexibility approaches.

The statement came even though Washington said last week that the joint aerial exercise planned for next month would be reduced in scope from previous drills.

"It is self-defence rights" to retaliate against any move which threatens its sovereignty and security, according to a statement from the State Affairs Commission, without elaborating.

It is rare for the Commission, the supreme governing body chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, to release a statement.

Last week, a senior North Korean diplomat also blamed the US joint aerial drill for "throwing cold water" over talks with Washington. Pyongyang opposes US-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.

In its latest statement, Pyongyang said it had taken measures to calm Washington's concerns but that the US had failed to reciprocate, leaving it with a "feeling of betrayal".

Mr Kim in April gave the US a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in stalled denuclearisation talks with Washington, after his talks with President Donald Trump collapsed in Hanoi in February.

North Korea has tested the limits of engagement with a string of missile launches, emboldened by the impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump in Washington, analysts and officials say.