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S.Korea, US, Japan hold drills as N.Korea slams US ‘nuclear blackmail’

South Korea, the United States and Japan staged joint naval missile defence exercises on Monday to improve responses to North Korean threats, as Pyongyang accused Washington of ramping up “nuclear blackmail” with military drills.

The three nations agreed at talks in Washington on Friday to hold regular missile defence and anti-submarine exercises in their efforts to boost diplomatic and military cooperation.

North Korea tested a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that experts say would ease the way for missile launches with little warning, part of an increase in its military activities in recent weeks.

Hours after the trilateral exercises, Ri Pyong Chol, vice president of the North Korean ruling party’s Central Military Commission, issued a statement criticising the U.S. for calling a U.N. Security Council meeting over its ICBM test.

The North’s weapons development was a self-defensive measure of defence against the U.S., Ri said. He accused Washington of raising regional tensions “to the brink of explosion” with military drills simulating a “pre-emptive nuclear strike and an all-out war” against the North.

The recent deployment of U.S. strategic bombers was “clear evidence that the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail against us has reached a level that cannot be overlooked”, Ri said.

“If the U.S. ignores our repeated warnings and continues actions that endanger the security environment of the Korean peninsula, we will take necessary action so that it feels a clearer security crisis and insurmountable threat,” he added.

Monday’s drills in international waters between Korea and Japan bring together South Korea’s 7,600-tonne Aegis destroyer Yulgok Yi I, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer Benfold, and Japan’s Atago destroyer, also equipped with Aegis radar systems.

The effort focuses on mastering response procedures, from detection and tracking to information-sharing, by creating a virtual target in a scenario featuring a North Korean ballistic missile provocation, the South’s navy said.

Source : Reuters