(ATTN: RECASTS paras 3-5, 14 with quotes from an English version of KCNA report)
By Byun Duk-kun
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday said the U.S. and South Korea will pay a terrible price should they decide to attack the North, arguing the allies' ongoing joint military drills are aimed at preparing for a potential invasion.
Pak Jong-chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the North's ruling Workers' Party, also called on Seoul and Washington to halt what he claimed to be military provocation against Pyongyang.
"If the U.S. and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK's armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the U.S. and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history," the North Korean official said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.
"It should be noted that in the present situation, it is a big mistake to accept this as a threat warning only," Pak added, according to KCNA.
The statement comes as Seoul and Washington are holding combined air drills, called Vigilant Storm.
A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry on Monday (Seoul time) accused the joint military exercises of being a "ceaseless and reckless" military provocation.
Pak argued the exercise was named after Operation Desert Storm, code name for military operations in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and that it represents the allies' intention to provoke, if not invade, North Korea.
Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder partly dismissed the accusation, saying Vigilant Storm had been long planned and that it is aimed at enhancing the allies' joint readiness.
"This year's event, which was long scheduled, will strengthen the operational and tactical capabilities, combined air operations and support our strong combined defense posture," Ryder said of the joint exercise in a daily press briefing.
The spokesperson declined to comment directly on North Korean accusations, but reiterated the defensive nature of the air drills.
"The exercise that we are conducting is a long planned exercise focused on enhancing interoperability of our forces to work together to defend the Republic of Korea and our allies in the region," he said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
The North Korean official also took issue with the recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review, in which the U.S. Department of Defense said a nuclear attack by North Korea against the U.S. or its allies will result in the "end" of the North Korean regime.
"What is clear is that the current U.S.-South Korea combined air drill revived in five years is an extension of such provocation," said Pak.
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