North Korea has warned the United States that it faces a “horrible disaster” and put its military on alert over a joint naval drill with South Korea and Japan. Pyongyang said relations were once again becoming strained.
North Korea said on Tuesday that its entire military was on "emergency posture" as the three-day exercise began.
Citing a military spokesman, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said troops had been told to "keep themselves fully ready to promptly launch operations any time, watching with high vigilance every move of the US and Japanese aggressors and the puppet forces."
"The US will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces."
Warning that the situation on the peninsula was "getting strained again," the North warned the US that, the closer its forces came, "the more unpredictable disasters their actions will cause."
A spokesman for the US-South Korea Combined Forces Command described the exercise as "an annual search and rescue drill and humanitarian in nature." As part of the drill, the US has deployed the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington.
He told the AFP news agency that the operation might have to be postponed due to poor weather. "We will continue to monitor weather conditions and adjust them as necessary," he said.
Tensions on the peninsula had eased somewhat after a series of threats from the North earlier this year, following joint exercise between the US and South Korea.
However, Pyongyang last week issued a rebuke to both countries over the signing of a new joint strategy aimed at countering the threat of a nuclear attack from the North.
rc/hc (AP, dpa, Reuters)