Military drills are scheduled through March 9
South Korea and the United States regularly hold military drills
The most recent talks between North Korea and the United States ended with little progress
North Korea said it’s ready to fight a war with the United States and South Korea, as the two allies kicked off their annual joint military drills Monday, according to state-run media.
“Hundreds of thousands of troops are poised for a war carrying nuclear war equipment,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported, saying Pyongyang considers the drills to be practice for a preemptive strike on the North.
The international community has been negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear program for years.
The most recent talks between North Korea and the United States ended Friday with little visible progress. They were the first high-level talks since the death of North Korea’s longtime leader, Kim Jong Il, in December and the subsequent transition of power to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.
Kim’s death threw into flux U.S. plans for renewed diplomacy with North Korea, including formal talks on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear program and possible resumption of U.S. food assistance.
The North Korea government was expected to suspend its uranium enrichment in exchange for food assistance as part of a deal that was to be announced around the time of Kim’s death.
The annual Key Resolve military drills that began Monday involve 2,100 U.S. troops with their South Korean counterparts. Washington insists the exercises are defensive in nature and unrelated to any geopolitical events.
The current military drills are scheduled through March 9, with a second set of overlapping exercises beginning March 1 and running through the end of April.
South Korea and the United States regularly hold military drills, and just as often North Korea denounces them as a provocation.
KCNA reported Saturday that Kim Jong Un, the new North Korean leader, visited military units in the southwest of the country, including one that fired upon a South Korean island in November 2010, killing two civilians and two marines. North Korea said its forces were responding to a South Korean military drill in the area.
While visitng the troops, Kim Jong Un “ordered them to make a powerful retaliatory strike at the enemy, should the enemy intrude even 0.001 mm into the waters of the country where its sovereignty is exercised,” KCNA reported.