Regime sees naval and air drills as sign of hostility as US urges Asian nations to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea
North Korea today threatened a “physical response” to planned military exercises by the US and South Korea this weekend, as tensions on the Korean peninsula dominated a regional security forum in Hanoi.
The regime did not specify what that response might be, but said it interpreted the launch on Sunday of four days of naval and air drills in the Sea of Japan as another sign of US “hostility”.
“It is a threat to the Korean peninsula and the region of Asia as a whole,” a North Korea spokesman, Ri Tong-il, told reporters at the Asean regional forum.
Ri said the drills harked back to 19th-century gunboat diplomacy and violated North Korea’s sovereignty. “And [our] position is clear: there will be physical response to the threat imposed by the United States militarily,” he said.
Operation Invincible Spirit will involve 8,000 US and South Korean troops, 200 aircraft and 20 ships, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS George Washington.
The meeting in Hanoi has quickly become the stage for a war of words between the north and the US, although there has been no direct contact between the countries’ delegates.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said “isolated and belligerent” North Korea would have to end its “campaign of provocative, dangerous behaviour” if it wanted better relations with the US and the rest of Asia.
North Korea has pulled out of six-party talks on its nuclear programme and is blamed for the March sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean navy vessel, in which 46 sailors died.
The regime denies carrying out the attack and has unleashed a wave of belligerent rhetoric in response to what it calls US aggression.