North Korea threatens attack due to war drills

SEOUL - North Korea said it was considering a pre-emptive attack to counter a US-South Korean joint military training drill that Pyongyang sees as a "war action," its official media reported today.

In its official media, North Korea said the drills were "an undisguised military threat and blackmail against the DPRK (North Korea) and a war action".

The drills were a violation of the truce that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War, it said.

"The Korean Peoples' Army side, therefore, reserves the right to undertake a pre-emptive action for self-defence against the enemy at a crucial time it deems necessary to defend itself," the North's KCNA news agency cited an army spokesman as saying.

US and South Korean troops began military drills on Monday dubbed Ulchi Focus Lens that are aimed at testing command structures and communications.

The annual exercise has been held without incident since they began in 1975 and the North usually brands them as a prelude to invasion and nuclear war.

But the drills this year are being held with tensions high on the peninsula after North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles on July 5 and reports last week it may preparing to test a nuclear weapon.

US television network ABC news reported that a US intelligence agency had observed suspicious vehicle movements at a suspected North Korean test site. It quoted an unidentified senior State Department official as saying a test was a real possibility.

Other intelligence experts say there is no sign of an imminent test.

The United States keeps about 30,000 troops in the South to support more than 650,000 troops South Korea has in uniform. North Korea has a 1.2-million-strong army, mostly stationed near the heavily fortified border with the South.

The two Koreas are technically still at war because the Korean War ended with a cease fire and not a peace treaty.

Six party talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs and discuss a permanent peace on the peninsula have stalled. Pyongyang, angry over US financial sanctions over alleged illicit activities, refuses to attend.

- REUTERS

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