07:19 GMT13 May 2021
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    Pyongyang warned that the US-South Korea drills it called a "military adventure" will only "add gasoline to the fire" amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

    North Korean diplomat speaking at a UN-backed conference in Geneva, Ju Yong Chol, also said that the drills would only further deteriorate the current escalation.

    "As long as the US hostile policy and nuclear threat remains unchallenged, the DPRK will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table," the North Korean diplomat said at the Conference on Disarmament as quoted by Reuters.

    Meanwhile, Jin Jong Hyop, the charge d’affaires of the North Korean embassy in Russia, told Sputnik that North Korea is closely following the joint South Korean and US military exercises which began earlier Monday and is ready to launch a preventive attack in case of a provocation.

    "Our army and our people led by […] Kim Jong Un are following these hostile act of enemies and are ready to launch a preventive strike at any minute should there be provocations," Jin said.

    According to the North Korean diplomat, there are no guarantees that the ongoing joint US-South Korean military drills do not escalate into full-fledged war.

    "Considering the vast number of US and South Korean troops, no one can guarantee that these exercises will not escalate into a real war at some moment."

    "They say that the exercises are annual and are defensive in nature, but in principle they are military exercises aimed at the eradication of our country. We see that a plan the main aim of which is to eliminate our supreme authorities, as well as our ballistic missiles, is being practiced at these exercises. This shows the aggression of these drills."

    On Monday, the joint US-South Korean Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) kicked off. The military exercises, in which about 17,500 US servicemen and about 50,000 South Korean troops are participating, have been criticized by Pyongyang. North Korean state news agency KCNA claimed that the United States was responsible for the potential consequences of the conflict as it had chosen a military rivalry with Pyongyang.

    On Monday, the South Korean presidential spokesperson warned that even a minor conflict between Washington and Pyongyang may threaten the lives of South Koreans and foreigners, including the US forces stationed on the Korean peninsula.

    In July, Russia and China proposed a "double freeze" scenario, where North Korea would cease its nuclear missile tests, while US-South Korean military drills would be simultaneously halted. The initiative was rejected by the United States. North Korea has not yet issued an official response on the matter.

    The United States and South Korea have a long history of cooperation in the sphere of defense that goes back to the Korean War in the 1950s. Within the framework of this alliance, the sides hold joint military exercises on a routine basis. The issue of security on the Korean Peninsula has become more complicated in recent years amid a series of ballistic and nuclear tests carried out by Pyongyang in violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions.

    Pyongyang has routinely criticized the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises.


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    military drills, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), US, South Korea
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