North Korea says UN should demand end to S.Korea-US military drills
North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday called on the United Nations to demand an immediate halt to combined military drills by the United States and South Korea, saying they were raising tensions that threaten to spiral out of control, Reuters reported.
The drills and rhetoric from the allies are “irresponsibly raising the level of confrontation,” Kim Son Gyong, vice foreign minister for international organisations, said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.
The United States and South Korea will conduct more than 10 days of large-scale military exercises in March, including amphibious landings, officials from the two countries said on Friday.
The US and South Korea say the exercises are in self-defence and are necessary to counter the rising threats from North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes, which are banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions, read the report.
North Korea on Saturday blamed the United States for what it said was the collapse of international arms control systems and said Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons were a just response to ensure the balance of power in the region.
The allies also conducted a combined air drill with an American long-range bomber and South Korean fighter aircraft on Friday, and have been staging weeks of exercises for special rations troops.
“The UN and the international community will have to strongly urge the US and South Korea to immediately halt their provocative remarks and joint military exercises,” Kim said.
It is regrettable that the U.N. has been consistently silent on the exercises, which have a “clear aggressive nature,” he said.
Last month Kim issued a statement saying UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been “extremely unfair, unbalanced” on North Korea’s missile tests, Reuters reported.
North Korea’s Kim calls for nuclear attack readiness against U.S., South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for the country to stand ready to conduct nuclear attacks at any time to deter war, accusing the U.S. and South Korea of expanding joint military drills involving American nuclear assets, state media KCNA said on Monday.
Kim’s remarks came as the isolated country conducted what KCNA called exercises aimed at bolstering its “war deterrence and nuclear counterattack capability” on Saturday and Sunday to send strong warnings against the allies, Reuters reported.
In the exercises, a ballistic missile equipped with a mock nuclear warhead flew 800 km (497 miles) before hitting a target at the altitude of 800 m (0.5 mile) under the scenario of a tactical nuclear attack, KCNA said.
Kim, who oversaw the test, said the exercises improved the military’s actual war capability and highlighted the need to ensure its readiness posture for any “immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack” through such drills.
“The present situation, in which the enemies are getting ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression against the DPRK, urgently requires the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear war deterrence exponentially,” KCNA quoted him as saying.
Kim was using the acronym of his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, read the report.
“The nuclear force of the DPRK will strongly deter, control and manage the enemy’s reckless moves and provocations with its high war readiness, and carry out its important mission without hesitation in case of any unwanted situation,” he added.
KCNA photos showed Kim attended the test, again with his young daughter, as flames roar from the soaring missile before it hit the target.
South Korea and Japan reported a launch of a North Korean short-range ballistic missile off the east coast on Sunday, the latest in a series of missile tests in recent weeks.
North Korea has reacted furiously to South Korea-U.S. combined military drills, calling them a rehearsal for invasion against it, Reuters reported.
The allies have been carrying out a multitude of their annual exercises since earlier this month, including air and sea drills on Sunday involving U.S. B-1B strategic bombers.
The U.S. and South Korea navies and marine corps are set to kick off their first large-scale Ssangyong amphibious landing exercises in five years on Monday for a two-week run until April 3.
Last month, the two countries staged tabletop exercises simulating North Korea’s nuclear attack amid South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s push for more confidence in U.S. extended deterrence – its military capability, especially nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies, read the report.
In another dispatch, KCNA said more than 1.4 million North Koreans have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military to fight against Seoul and Washington, up from some 800,000 reported by a state newspaper just two days before.
North Korea claims almost 800,000 have signed up to fight against US
North Korea claims that about 800,000 of its citizens volunteered to join or reenlist in the nation’s military to fight against the United States, North Korea’s state newspaper reported on Saturday.
About 800,000 students and workers, on Friday alone, across the country expressed a desire to enlist or reenlist in the military to counter the United States, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported.
“The soaring enthusiasm of young people to join the army is a demonstration of the unshakeable will of the younger generation to mercilessly wipe out the war maniacs making last-ditch efforts to eliminate our precious socialist country, and achieve the great cause of national reunification without fail and a clear manifestation of their ardent patriotism,” the North’s Rodong Sinmun said.
The North’s claim came after North Korea on Thursday launched its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in response to ongoing U.S-South Korea military drills.
North Korea fired the ICBM into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter the nuclear-armed North, Reuters reported.
The North’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the launch drew condemnation from governments in Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
South Korean and American forces began 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, on Monday, held on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter the North’s growing threats, read the report.
Kim accused the United States and South Korea of increasing tensions with the military drills.
Magnitude 6.8 earthquake shakes Ecuador, at least 14 deaths reported
At least 14 people were killed in a strong earthquake that shook a coastal region of Ecuador and northern Peru on Saturday, causing structural damage to multiple homes, schools and medical centers, Reuters reported.
The quake, which the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured at magnitude 6.8, struck at a depth of 66.4 km (41.3 miles) about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the city of Balao in the province of Guayas.
The earthquake did not appear likely to generate a tsunami, authorities said.
“We remain in the territory verifying the damage caused by the earthquake this morning. I want to confirm that I am with you and express my solidarity and commitment to the victims,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said in a tweet.
The presidency’s communication agency said the quake left 14 people dead, and more than 380 people were injured, largely in the El Oro province, read the report.
The agency said at least 44 homes were destroyed, while 90 more were damaged. Around 50 educational buildings and more than 30 health centers were also affected, while multiple roadways were blocked by landslides caused by the earthquake. The Santa Rosa airport suffered minor damage, but remained in operation.
Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management said in an earlier statement that one death in Azuay province occurred when a wall collapsed on to a vehicle. In other provinces, structural damage included a collapsed wharf and a fallen wall in a supermarket.
State-run oil company Petroecuador had evacuated and suspended activities in multiple facilities out of precaution, but had not reported damage, the agency said.
“We all ran out into the streets… we were very scared,” Ernesto Alvarado, a resident of Isla Puna near the epicenter, told Reuters, adding that some homes had collapsed.
The initial quake was followed by two weaker aftershocks in the following hour, according to the Geophysics Institute of Ecuador.
Peruvian authorities said the quake was felt in the country’s northern region, but there were no immediate reports of harm to people or structures, Reuters reported.
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