Thursday, July 22, 2010

North Korea denounces US sanctions

North Korea denounced new U.S. sanctions against its regime and said next week’s naval exercises involving South Korean and American forces posed a threat to regional peace.

“The sanctions are a direct expression of intensified hostility,” Ri Tong Il, a member of North Korea’s delegation to Asia’s biggest security forum in Hanoi, said today. “The U.S. should make concrete steps toward engaging in dialogue if it is serious about ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.”

Ri’s comments coincided with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s arrival in the Vietnamese capital to attend the same Asean Regional Forum. Clinton announced the trade restrictions against North Korea yesterday during a visit to Seoul, where she urged the regime to acknowledge that it sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors.

The US has announced a series of joint military exercises aimed at deterring the North from any future attack.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, and his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-Young said the drills off the Korean peninsula's western coast were designed "to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behaviour must stop".

However, Ri on Thursday criticised the planned naval drills, saying the military exercises pose a major threat to global peace.

"The decision to hold military drills is a major danger for the security of the region," he said.

"Such movements pose a great threat not only to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula but also to global peace and security."

The US has sent the 97,000-tonne aircraft carrier USS George Washington to take part in the drill set to begin on Sunday in the Sea of Japan.

The exercises will involve about 20 ships and 200 fixed-wing aircraft, according to military officials.

The drills are the first overt military response to the sinking of the Cheonan, and underscore US support for Seoul.

The North has denied it is responsible for the incident and a United Nations Security Council statement condemning the sinking did not name North Korea as the culprit, apparently after Chinese pressure.

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