By Soo-hyang Choi
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea on Tuesday denounced the annual military drills between the United States and South Korea, warning of a “thermonuclear war” over recent trilateral agreements to deepen ties between the leaders of the U.S., South Korea and Japan at Camp David.
South Korea and the United States began the Ulchi Freedom Shield summer exercises on Monday, designed to enhance their joint responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. Pyongyang has long denounced the drills as a rehearsal for war.
In a commentary carried by the KCNA news agency, North Korea said the summit between the United States, South Korea and Japan at the Camp David presidential retreat on Friday was aimed at formulating a “nuclear war provocation.”
“If the agreements fabricated at the Camp David Resort are additionally put into practice in the war drill … the possibility of outbreak of a thermonuclear war on the Korean peninsula will become more realistic,” the commentary said.
In the first standalone meeting between the leaders of the U.S., South Korea and Japan, the three countries agreed to deepen military and economic cooperation as they seek to project unity in the face of China’s growing power and the North’s nuclear threats.
The North’s commentary said the prevailing situation requires its military to “take the initiative, offensive and overwhelming action for a war,” though it did not elaborate.
North Korea has said it will launch a satellite between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31 in the direction of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea, the Japanese Coast Guard said on Tuesday, after a botched launch in May.
South Korean lawmakers have said the North could test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile or take other military action to protest the allies’ drills or last week’s summit of South Korea, the United States and Japan.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul; Editing by Matthew Lewis)