İrem UZUN -TDO- North Korea threatened on Wednesday to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea, ramping up pressure on Washington to change course as a year-end North Korean deadline for U.S. flexibility approaches.In a statement carried by state media, an unidentified spokesman for the North’s State Affairs Commission said the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness.
The statement came even though Washington said last week that the joint aerial exercise planned for next month would be reduced in scope from previous drills. “It is self-defense rights” to retaliate against any move which threatens its sovereignty and security, according to a statement from the State Affairs Commission, without elaborating. North Korea has also ramped up its missile tests in recent months and experts say it is likely to continue weapons displays to pressure Washington as Kim’s deadline nears for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal.Kim in April gave the United States a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks.
Last week, senior North Korean diplomat Kwon Jong Gun said a joint aerial exercise planned by the U.S. and South Korea in coming weeks amounted to "throwing a wet blanket over the spark" of nuclear negotiations that are "on the verge of extinction." Kwon said North Korea’s patience was nearing its limit and that it will “never remain an onlooker" to "reckless military moves".