Updated: 01/15/2014 22:57 | By Agence France-Presse

N. Korea warns of disaster over S. Korea-US drills

North Korea warned Wednesday of "calamities and disaster" if the United States and South Korea push ahead with a series of annual joint military drills from next month.


N. Korea warns of disaster over S. Korea-US drills

South Korean soldiers wear gas masks during an anti-terror drill on the sidelines of South Korea-US joint military exercises in central Seoul on August 21, 2013

The threat, which also said the drills would be tantamount to declaring nuclear war, came from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), a North Korean state body in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

"We solemnly warn the United States and South Korea against staging dangerous military exercises that will ... drive the situation on the Korean peninsula and inter-Korean relations into catastrophe," a CPRK spokesman said in a statement published by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea and the United States conduct joint military exercises of varying magnitude every year, which are routinely condemned by the North as rehearsals for invasion.

From late February US and South Korean troops plan to stage a computer-simulated drill named Key Resolve, followed by a major joint field exercise to test their combat readiness.

Pyongyang staged a third nuclear test in February last year and later issued threats of atomic attacks on Washington and Seoul for staging joint military exercises south of the border.

This month South Korean President Park Geun-Hye had called for resuming reunions for families separated by the Korean War around the time of the Lunar New Year on January 31.

But the North rejected Park's proposal, citing planned South-US military exercises as a major barrier.

In Wednesday's statement, the CPRK spokesman warned that any military drills would be tantamount to a declaration of full-scale "nuclear war", adding they could trigger "calamities and disasters beyond imagination".

The latest threat comes at a time of growing concern over the regime's stability after the execution of Jang Song-Thaek, a senior leader who was also the uncle and former political mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Seoul and Washington have warned of possible provocative acts by the nuclear-armed North following the purge.

North Korea has been conducting military exercises of its own in recent weeks.

The United States has based troops in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War and the force currently numbers 28,500.

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