North Korea says an upcoming joint military exercise involving the United States and South Korea poses a major threat to the security of both the Korean peninsula and the world.
The statement was issued Wednesday by Ri Tong Il, a spokesman for the North Korean delegation in Hanoi for the ASEAN Security Forum.
The U.S. and South Korea announced earlier this week they will conduct a four-day military exercise in the Sea of Japan beginning Sunday. The drills are being conducted in response to the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, which left 46 sailors dead. An international investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo sank the ship, a charge Pyongyang denies.
North Korean spokesman Ri told reporters the drills would violate the U.N. Security Council statement which condemned the attack, but also called for "peaceful and appropriate" measures to deal with the situation.
The spokesman also denounced a new set of sanctions imposed by the U.S., calling them hostile in nature. The sanctions were announced Wednesday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Hanoi Thursday to take part in the ASEAN summit. The sanctions are designed to limit North Korea's ability to develop and spread weapons of mass destruction.
The U.S. and South Korea are among the five nations who have been negotiating with North Korea about its nuclear program. Ri called on Washington and Seoul to cancel the military exercise if they were interested in a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
Robert Einhorn, who oversees U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran, told VOA Wednesday he will travel to Asia in early August to rally support for the enforcement of new sanctions against North Korea.
Einhorn said his first stop will be South Korea, then probably Japan. He said he also plans to visit China, whose role in enforcing North Korea sanctions is considered vital.
Clinton is expected to discuss the sanctions with her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, on the sidelines of the summit.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and Bloomberg