NORTH Korea yesterday threatened the US and South Korea with a “physical response” if they go ahead with war games this weekend.
But the US refused to back down in the latest crisis, four months after the sinking of a South Korean warship, in which the North has been accused of blame.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a North Korean official, in Vietnam for a regional security forum, traded barbs over the sinking, the four-day military drills beginning tomorrow and the imposition of new US sanctions against the North.
A North Korean spokesman said the military drills – to be conducted in the Sea of Japan off Korea’s east coast and in the Yellow Sea closer to China’s shores – were a violation of its sovereignty.
The exercises will be “another expression of hostile policy against” North Korea. “There will be physical response against the threat imposed by the United States militarily,” he said.
Ms Clinton responded by saying the US was willing to negotiate with the North, but that this type of threat only heightened tensions. “It is distressing when North Korea continues its threats and causes so much anxiety among its neighbours and the larger region,” she said.
“But we will demonstrate once again with our military exercises... that the United States stands in firm support of the defence of South Korea.”
Clinton had earlier lashed out against belligerent acts by the North, warning Pyongyang must reverse a “campaign of provocative, dangerous behaviour” if it wants improved relations with its neighbours and the US.
She said stability in the region, particularly on the Korean peninsula, depended on persuading an “isolated and belligerent” North Korea to alter course and return to talks.
A team of investigators concluded in May that a North Korean submarine fired the torpedo that sank the South Korean ship.
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