North Korea warns US over 'provocative' drills
In 2013, North Korea said it would retaliate against any hostile moves by striking at the United States.
SEOUL - North Korea has demanded that South Korea and the United States (US) halt annual military drills due in February and March, saying they were a direct provocation, a statement that suggested a re-run of a sharp escalation in tension last year.
In 2013, North Korea said it would retaliate against any hostile moves by striking at the US, Japan and South Korea, triggering a military build-up on the Korean peninsula and months of fiery rhetoric.
The reclusive North has regularly denounced annual drills such as "Key Resolve" and "Ulchi-Freedom-Guardian" staged by South Korea and United States as a prelude to invasion.
"We sternly warn the US and the South Korean authorities to stop the dangerous military exercises which may push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe," the North's KCNA state news said.
Similar bellicose rhetoric from the North set South Korea, the US and Japan on edge a year ago. As a result, Washington flew Stealth bomber missions over South Korea and strengthened its military presence in the South, where nearly 30,000 US troops are based.
South Korea said the drills were going ahead as planned and despite the threat, North Korea's military has showed no sign of unusual activities.
"If North Korea actually commits military aggression at the excuse of what is a normal exercise we conduct as preparation for emergency, our military will mercilessly and decisively punish them," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.
China, North Korea's only remaining real ally and which has been alarmed by what it sees as provocations by both sides, called for restraint.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who took power two years ago, has pursued his father's military policies, including those aimed at obtaining nuclear strike capacity.