US-S. Korea drill is 'declaration of war': North*
Agence France Presse
August 18, 2011
SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea on Thursday slammed a joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea as a declaration of "all-out war".
The 10-day exercise is an "unpardonable heinous provocation" against the communist state, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said.
"This is a declaration of an all-out war against the DPRK (North Korea)," the state body said in an English-language statement carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency.
The exercise, which began on Tuesday, involves more than 530,000 troops, including some 3,000 military personnel from the US and other bases around the Pacific region.
The two allies have described the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drill as defensive and routine, but the CPRK said it was a rehearsal for an attack against the North's leadership, nuclear and missile bases.
The UFG has stripped the United States and South Korea of their "mask of peace and dialogue," the CPRK said, adding that the two countries had reacted to Pyongyang's "patient efforts for peace" with "provocative manoeuvres for a war of aggression".
South Korean news agency Yonhap, quoting military officials, has said the exercise will see troops simulate the detection and destruction of North Korean atomic bombs, missiles and chemical weapons.
The comments from the CPRK come a day after the isolated communist state responded to the start of the exercise by vowing to bolster its nuclear deterrent.
The North's foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday that the "extremely provocative and aggressive" exercise showed the US sticks to its "invariable hostile aim" to stifle the North "by force of arms".
"It is self-evident that the DPRK should put spurs to bolstering its nuclear deterrent for self-defence both in quality and quantity to cope with this situation," he said.
The North habitually labels such joint drills as rehearsals for invasion and launches its own counter-exercises.
Last week it urged Washington and Seoul to show their willingness to work towards denuclearisation by scrapping the exercise, and demanded a peace treaty to replace the current armistice that ended the 1950-1953 war.
Pyongyang officials met counterparts in Seoul and Washington last month, raising hopes that the talks involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States could resume after last taking place in December 2008.
The North has repeatedly expressed a desire to return to the forum, but the United States has urged it to show more sincerity and mend ties with the South first.