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North Korea says it may boost military to counter US, South Korea and Japan pact

North Korea has denounced the United States, South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targeting the North, warning that Pyongyang may need to consider reinforcing its own military capability.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday: “The reality clearly shows that the real purpose of the US spreading the rumour about ‘threat from North Korea’ is to provide an excuse for attaining military supremacy over the Asia-Pacific region.”

North Korea has long cited what it calls hostility by the US and its allies as a reason to pursue a nuclear program. Sunday’s comments, reported by state news agency KCNA, come as North Korea’s neighbours say the country is ready for its first nuclear test in five years as part of its provocative run of weapons tests this year.

The North Korean foreign ministry said: “The prevailing situation more urgently calls for building up the country’s defence to actively cope with the rapid aggravation of the security environment of the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the world.”

The ministry’s statement did not elaborate on how it would boost its military capacity. But it took issue with a trilateral meeting among the US, South Korean and Japanese leaders on the sidelines of a Nato summit last week, during which they underscored the need to strengthen their cooperation to deal with North Korean nuclear threats.

“The chief executives of the US, Japan and South Korea put their heads together for confrontation with [North Korea] and discussed the dangerous joint military countermeasures against it including the launch of tripartite joint military exercises,” the statement said.

North Korea views US-led military exercises in the region, particularly ones with rival South Korea, as an invasion rehearsal, though Washington and Seoul have repeatedly said they have no intentions of attacking the North.

During the recent trilateral meeting, the US president, Joe Biden, said he was “deeply concerned” about North Korea’s continued ballistic missile tests and apparent plans to conduct a nuclear test. The South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, said the importance of trilateral cooperation has grown in the face of North Korea’s advanced nuclear program, while the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, said joint anti-missile drills would be important to deter North Korean threats.

Earlier in June, the defence chiefs of the US, South Korea and Japan agreed to resume their combined missile warning and tracking exercises as part of their efforts to deal with North Korea’s escalating weapons tests.

The North Korean statement accused the US of exaggerating rumours about North Korean threats “to provide an excuse for attaining military supremacy over the Asia-Pacific region including the Korean Peninsula”.

US officials have said Washington has no hostile intent toward Pyongyang and urged it to return to disarmament talks without any preconditions. North Korea has rejected the US overture, saying it would focus on buttressing its nuclear deterrent unless the US drops its hostile policies toward the North, an apparent reference to US-led economic sanctions and its regular military training with South Korea.

North Korea claimed the recent Nato summit proved an alleged US plan to contain Russia and China by achieving the “militarisation of Europe” and forming a Nato-like alliance in Asia. It said “the reckless military moves of the US and its vassal forces” could lead to dangerous consequences, such as a nuclear war simultaneously taking place in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Pyongyang has often released similar warlike rhetoric and warned of the danger of nuclear war in times of heightened animosities with Washington and Seoul.

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