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15 July 2024

North Korea says war games threaten nuclear deal

By Agencies


North Korea on Monday said US and South Korean war games that started at the weekend could halt an international deal designed to end the secretive state's nuclear arms programme.

The criticism suggests little has changed in relations between the Cold War foes despite last week's unprecedented concert of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang which was seen by many as a chance to help start a thaw.

"(These war games) clearly show that the United States continues to pursue its hostile policy of squeezing our republic to death," North Korea's KCNA news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

"This nuclear threat won't work with us but will only put the brakes on the denuclearisation process on the Korean peninsula," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

He said the military exercises had forced the North to bolster its "deterrent", the paranoid state's code for its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea has missed an end of 2007 deadline to give a
complete inventory of its nuclear arms programme as agreed under a deal with regional powers.

The reclusive North, which started late last year to take apart its Soviet-era nuclear plant as a part of the deal, would be removed from a US terrorism blacklist and see better opportunities for trade if it submits its nuclear inventory.

The chief US envoy to the nuclear talks left China at the weekend without meeting his North Korean counterpart, who said he was "not ready" for talks aimed at pushing forward the stalled nuclear deal.

The United States and South Korea have been staging annual joint war games for years. This year's drills end on March 7.

North Korea regularly denounces them as a preparation for invasion and nuclear war.

On Sunday, a North Korea military official was quoted by the official media as saying the communist state was ready to strike back against the military exercises.

The United States has about 27,000 troops in the South to support the country's 670,000-strong military. North Korea is one of the world's most militarised states with an army of 1.2 million, most of whom are stationed near the border. (Reuters)