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North Korea Condemns US, Japan, South Korea for Forming 'Alliance'

North Korea has condemned the United States, Japan and South Korea for forming what Pyongyang calls a "tripartite military alliance."

The north's state news agency quotes the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper Saturday as saying the alliance creates a threat to the Korean peninsula and to all of East Asia.

The paper said tensions on the Korean peninsula and the possibility of a new war are rising due to efforts by the U.S., Japan and South Korea to form an alliance.

Top diplomats from the U.S., South Korea and Japan are to meet Monday in Washington to discuss tensions on the Korean peninsula following a North Korean artillery barrage on a South Korean island last month that killed two civilians and two Marines.

The U.S. and Japan have since announced plans to move 40,000 troops into position for a major military exercise near the Korean peninsula.

That exercise began Friday, two days after a major U.S.-South Korean naval drill ended.

Also Saturday, South Korea vowed a strong military response if North Korea attacks the South again.

Seoul's new defense minister, retired General Kim Kwan-jin, said after he took office Saturday if North Korea carries out another military provocation, South Korea must retaliate immediately and strongly until Pyongyang surrenders.

The United States, South Korea and Japan have expressed reluctance to talk with North Korea, concerned that doing so would seen as rewarding Pyongyang for what they call provocative behavior.

They say Pyongyang first must honor commitments made to regional powers to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.