North Korea threatened "all-out war" could occur as a result of South Korea and the United States coming together in a massive joint military exercise, AFP reports.
The communist regime condemned the 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise as provocative and a rehearsal for invasion, though the allies said it was a defensive, routine drill.
The annual computer-assisted simulation command-post exercise involving tens of thousands of troops began Tuesday, the Daily Telegraph reports.
All major units were taking part, involving more than 530,000 troops, including some 3,000 military personnel from the U.S. and other bases around the Pacific region, US-South Korea Combined Forces Command said.
US General James D Thurman, Combined Forces Command Commander, said the drill was focused on ‘‘preparing, preventing and prevailing against the full range of current and future external threats’’ to South Korea and the region.
‘‘We are applying lessons learned out of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those garnered by the Alliance’s recent experiences with North Korean provocations on the peninsula and past exercises,’’ he said.
Pyongyang condemned the exercise as ‘‘extremely provocative’’, calling it a preparation for an ‘‘all-out war’’ against the North and the ‘‘largest-ever nuclear war exercise’’.
‘‘The Korean peninsula is faced with the worst crisis ever. An all-out war can be triggered by any accidents,’’ the North’s ruling communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in a commentary.
It said the two countries wanted to build up their capacity to make surprise attacks on the North’s nuclear and missile facilities.
‘‘The US war-mongers are planning to carry out a realistic war drill to remove our nuclear facilities with a mobile unit led by the US 20th Support Command which was sent to Iraq to find and disable weapons of mass destruction,’’ it said.
‘‘Our military and the people will not sit idle as US imperialists mobilize massive military forces and threaten our sovereign rights.’’
The CFC spokesman said that during the exercise, troops would train for a ‘‘wide variety of missions including those involving the location and security of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological threats’’.
The North’s military urged Seoul and Washington last week to scrap the exercise, calling for a new peace-keeping agreement.
There are hopes that six-party disarmament talks involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States may resume for the first time since 2008 after meetings last month.