(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, details from 5th para; RECASTS lead; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned Friday that South Korea and the United States will face "unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions" should they press ahead with their planned combined military drills.
A spokesperson of the North's foreign ministry issued the warning as Seoul and Washington plan to stage their combined springtime Freedom Shield exercise in the coming weeks.
"In case the U.S. and South Korea carry into practice their already-announced plan for military drills which the DPRK, with just apprehension and reason, regards as preparations for an aggression war, they will face unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions," the spokesperson said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The spokesperson took issue with a series of the allies' drills earlier this year, including those involving strategic bombers and stealth fighters, as well as their plan to stage some 20 large-scale joint field exercises this year
"This predicts that the situation in the Korean peninsula and the region will be again plunged into the grave vortex of escalating tension," the official said.
The official added the North should "have to make reactions since the U.S. and South Korea openly revealed their dangerous attempt to gain a long-term military edge."
The remarks raised speculation that the North may be moving to build a rationale for the resumption of provocative acts, such as ballistic missile launches, and to shift the blame to the South and the U.S.
The spokesperson also criticized the U.S. for "coercively" convening a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) session on North Korean issues this week.
"This shows that the U.S. moves to turn the UNSC with heavy responsibility for the international peace and security into a tool for the U.S. illegal hostile policy toward the DPRK have gone to the extremes that cannot be allowed any longer," the official claimed.
The spokesperson also warned that if the UNSC continues to be "inveigled by the U.S.," the North will consider "measures for additional actions, to say nothing of the category of normal military activities."
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