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North Korea warns of retaliation against U.S.-South Korea military drills

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By Reuters
North Korea warns of retaliation against U.S.-South Korea military drills
FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen on a tree next to a banner showing North Korean and U.S. flags ahead of the North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon   -   Copyright  KIM KYUNG-HOON(Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) – 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.

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.

It is rare for the Commission, the supreme governing body chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to release a statement.

Last week, a senior North Korean diplomat also blamed the U.S. joint aerial drill for “throwing cold water” over talks with Washington. Pyongyang opposes U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.

In its latest statement, Pyongyang said it had taken measures to calm Washington’s concerns but that the United States had failed to reciprocate, leaving it with a “feeling of betrayal”.

Kim in April gave the United States a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in stalled denuclearisation talks with Washington, after his talks with Trump collapsed in Hanoi in February.

North Korea has tested the limits of engagement with a string of missile launches, emboldened by the impeachment inquiry into Trump in Washington, analysts and officials say.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Gareth Jones)