NK-military exercise

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Saturday blasted the ongoing joint South Korea-U.S. Foal Eagle military drills, denouncing them as a direct threat to its security.

The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said the annual South Korea-U.S. field training exercise that kicked off this month and run through the end of April, involve hundreds of thousands of troops and nuclear weapons.

"The U.S. and warmongers (in the South) are engaged in a war drill on our doorstep," the committee stressed. It pointed out that there is no precedence for such a long-drawn maneuver taking place anywhere else in the world in the face of opposition.

The organization, charged with holding dialogue and exchanges between the two countries, said that Pyongyang has already made clear that if a new war breaks out it will respond with its nuclear assets and will not shy away from preemptive strikes.

"It is now past time that we engaged in talk," it argued, saying the North will respond to force with force, and use nuclear weapons if it is attacked by nuclear weapons.

Related to the North's hardline stance, the Minju Josun, the North Korean Cabinet's official newspaper, said relations with Washington have deteriorated to the point that there is no longer any need to hold talks.

"No logical discussion is possible and there is really no need to hold bilateral meetings," the media outlet said. It pointed out that recently many high ranking U.S. officials have said they will never accept a North Korea armed with nuclear weapons and added there will be no compensation if the nuclear standoff is not resolved.

The paper claimed that it was the United States that pushed the North to arm itself with nuclear weapons in the first place, so its arguments are self-contradictory and make no sense. It warned that the will of the people is to end the confrontation with the U.S. once and for all, which has been going on for several decades.

"This is the view and will of the people," it said, making clear that the country is not interested in any form of political bartering and will maintain its nuclear deterrence.

The remarks, meanwhile, come as the communist country has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula by detonating its third nuclear device on Feb. 12. It has unilaterally nullified the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War (1950-53) and made clear it will no longer respect non-aggression pacts signed in the past between the two Koreas.

Meanwhile, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) urged higher vigilance against possible attacks by the North.

"Despite economic difficulties, North Korea has increased air force activities this month. This should be seen as a sign of provocation," JCS Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo said during an inspection trip to a front-line unit.

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