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North Korea slams trilateral military cooperation

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea yesterday slammed the United States (US), South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targetting the North, warning that the move is prompting urgent calls for the country to reinforce its military capability.

North Korea has long cited what it calls hostility by the US and its allies as a reason to pursue a nuclear programme. Yesterday’s statement comes 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 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 North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement 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.

US and South Korean vessels during a joint military exercise at an undisclosed location. PHOTO: AP

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, 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.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the importance of trilateral cooperation has grown in the face of North Korea’s advanced nuclear programme, while 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 region including the Korean Peninsula”.

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