SEOUL— North Korea denounced a U.S.-South Korea military agreement and joint exercises this week as preludes to war, and repeating threats of a preemptive strike. Seoul and Washington said the drills, which also include Japan, are humanitarian in nature. According to political analysts, Pyongyang's rhetoric is likely to grow worse.
North Korea's state media Monday lashed out at South Korea and the U.S. for planning a strategic framework to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear and missile threats.
The customized deterrence plan was finalized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last week during an annual South Korea-U.S. security meeting in Seoul.
A statement by Pyongyang's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea described the move as a “dangerous plot of nuclear war.”
Pyongyang radio read out the denunciation of the military agreement.
The newsreader said if their enemies try to threaten them in the slightest, their country and people will launch merciless preemptive strikes for the final annihilation.
North Korea's state media also condemned joint U.S.-South Korea maritime drills this week that include Japan and a U.S. aircraft carrier.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper claimed the exercises, despite being planned months in advance, were timed to scuttle inter-Korean dialogue and were a prelude to war.
South Korea's Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok dismissed the criticism.
He said the South Korea-U.S.-Japan joint naval drill is for rescues at sea. It is a humanitarian level drill, he said, which searches for and rescues private ships or anyone who is in distress. He said this is not something to criticize or something that can be criticized, so they view North Korea's critique as wrong.
U.S. Naval Forces Korea echoed that view in a statement read by spokesman Arlo Abrahamson.
“These are trilateral naval exercises that are between the U.S., the Republic of Korea, and Japan that are humanitarian in nature. The U.S. Navy encourages interoperability training between the Republic of Korea Navy and the Japan Maritime Defense Force in order to strengthen our ties, provide collective defense and prepare for potential humanitarian operations, and enhance stability in the region,” he stated.
North Korea habitually condemns U.S.-South Korea military exercises as practice for an invasion.
But North Korea in recent days has also launched a volley of rhetoric and insults at South Korea, and its leaders, after a thaw in relations once again cooled.
John Delury is assistant professor of East Asian Studies at Yonsei University. He said North Korea's young hereditary leader Kim Jong Un is still consolidating his power and legitimacy.
“Kim Jong Un I think needs to be particularly strong and needs to be able to present strength domestically. So, the moment is not right to look for political will in North Korea to make tough compromises on the nuclear issue,” he said.
Kim Jong Un succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, after he died in December 2011, and is believed to be about 30 years old.
VOA Seoul Burea Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.