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S. Korea condemns N.K.'s war threats over Seoul-Washington military drill

All Headlines 11:49 February 02, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea condemned North Korea on Thursday for threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes in response to a joint military exercise by Seoul and Washington scheduled for next month.

North Korea's agency handling inter-Korean affairs said Wednesday that the upcoming military drill will lead to "shameful destruction" for the two allies as North Korea is ready to take action against what it called their preparation for a nuclear war.

"If North Korea wants to see an improvement in the inter-Korean ties and peace on the Korean Peninsula, it should stop its bellicose rhetoric and take the path toward denuclearization and changes," said an official from Seoul's unification ministry.

Despite Seoul's assurance of its defensive nature, Pyongyang has long denounced the annual military exercise as a rehearsal for an invasion.

The North has insisted that its development of nuclear weapons is a deterrent against what it calls Washington's hostile policy toward it.

The threat was made as new U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is set to arrive in Seoul on Thursday on his first overseas trip, which also includes a stop to Japan, since he took office last month.

His trip is widely viewed as aiming to highlight the U.S. commitment to defending its key Asian allies amid North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats.

The ministry official said that the North's statement was released earlier than expected as it usually unveiled the comment right before the March drill.

"The level of North Korea's bellicose rhetoric seems to be similar to that of last year, but North Korea's comments on pre-emptive strikes warrant close attention," he added.

S. Korea condemns N.K.'s war threats over Seoul-Washington military drill - 1

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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