By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has accused the United States of establishing a military alliance like NATO in Asia, saying the unwavering U.S. goal of overthrowing the North Korean government has forced it to develop stronger defenses.
North Korean criticism comes amid concerns that it could prepare its first nuclear test in five years and following a recent agreement between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeole and US President Joe Biden on the deployment of more U.S. weapons if deemed necessary to deter the North.
“While apparently holding joint military exercises with Japan and South Korea, the United States is taking a full step toward establishing an Asian-style NATO,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said on its website on Sunday.
It referred to recent military exercises conducted by American, South Korean and Japanese forces. The United States also held exercises with South Korean forces that included a U.S. aircraft carrier, for the first time in more than four years.
North Korea, which conducted regular missile tests this year, reiterated its claim that such exercises are preparations for war with the aim of overthrowing it.
“This proves the hypocrisy of American rhetoric of ‘diplomatic engagement’ and ‘dialogue without preconditions’, while at the same time revealing that there is no change in the US ambition to overthrow our system by force,” the North Korean ministry said.
She did not explicitly comment on her nuclear or missile programs, but said U.S. hostility forced her to develop her defenses.
“The reality … makes us feel the need to make a comprehensive effort to develop even stronger power so that we can subdue all kinds of hostile acts by the United States,” it states.
The United States has insisted that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons and has repeatedly offered to meet with North Korean officials “at any time without preconditions” to discuss the issue. North Korea rejected the offer.
North Korean criticism arrived a day before the South Korean president went to a NATO summit in Spain, the first South Korean leader to do so.
South Korea, which wants to strengthen its partnership with NATO and play a greater global security role, plans to establish a NATO delegation at its headquarters in Brussels, a South Korean national security adviser said last week.
(Reported by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Robert Birsel)
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