SEOUL: North Korea said on Thursday that drills by the United States and its allies have reached an "extreme red-line" and threaten to turn the peninsula into a "huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone."
The Foreign Ministry statement, carried by state news agency KCNA, said Pyongyang was not interested in dialogue as long as Washington pursues hostile policies.
"The military and political situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region has reached an extreme red-line due to the reckless military confrontational manoeuvres and hostile acts of the US and its vassal forces," an unnamed ministry spokesperson said in the statement.
It cited a visit to Seoul this week by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. On Tuesday, Austin and his South Korean counterpart vowed to expand military drills and deploy more "strategic assets," such as aircraft carriers and long-range bombers, to counter North Korea's weapons development and prevent a war.
"This is a vivid expression of the US dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone," the North Korean statement said.
The United States has pushed to expand military, political, and economic ties across Asia.
In Manila on Thursday, Austin and his counterpart there announced that the Philippines had granted the United States expanded
access to its military bases
amid mounting concern over China's increasing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and tensions over self-ruled Taiwan.
When asked about the tensions with North Korea during his stop in the Philippines, Austin said that the US goal was to promote greater security and stability and that it remained committed to defending South Korea.
"We will continue to work alongside our allies and train and ensure that we maintain credible and ready forces," he said.
North Korea said it would respond to any military moves by the United States, and had strong counteraction strategies, including "the most overwhelming nuclear force" if necessary.
On Wednesday, the United States and South Korea carried out a joint air drill with American B-1B heavy bombers and F-22 stealth fighters, as well as F-35 jets from both countries, according to South Korea's Defence Ministry.
"The combined air drills this time show the US' will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
In Washington, the White House rejected the North Korean statement and reiterated a willingness to meet with North Korean diplomats "at a time and place convenient for them."
"We have made clear we have no hostile intent towards the DPRK and seek serious and sustained diplomacy to address the full range of issues of concern to both countries and the region," said a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, refering to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea.
More than 28,500 American troops are based in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
"We reject the notion that our joint exercises with partners in the region serve as any sort of provocation. These are routine exercises fully consistent with past practice," the White House statement said.
Last year, North Korea conducted a record number of ballistic missile tests, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions. It was also observed reopening its shuttered nuclear weapons test site, raising expectations of a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.