UNITED NATIONS — North Korea said Friday it has asked for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to protest upcoming U.S.-South Korean military exercises, warning the drills increase the danger of war on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea's deputy ambassador Ri Tong Il criticized the council for its failure to respond to the country's July 21 letter requesting a meeting. He said the joint exercises are a threat to international peace and security that must be addressed.
If there is any "spark" during the exercises, Ri warned, "it would easily and immediately turn into war" and the U.S. and the Security Council will be responsible for the deaths.
He said Washington and Seoul are hinting they will push ahead with the mid-August exercises involving between 400,000 and 500,000 U.S. and South Korean forces, despite Pyongyang's opposition.
Ri accused the U.S. of engaging in "nuclear blackmail" by bringing nuclear-armed ships, submarines and bombers to South Korea for military exercises.
He warned that North Korea will respond to any nuclear or missile attack with nuclear weapons or missiles.
North Korea has already "made clear" that its long-range ballistic missiles "are targeted at the U.S. since the U.S. is targeting Pyongyang," Ri said.
Kurtis Cooper, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said the annual joint military exercises "are transparent, defense-oriented" and have been carried out openly for about 40 years. He said 10 countries will be participating in the exercises, which are planned months in advance and monitored to ensure full compliance with the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
A Security Council diplomat said the council received North Korea's letter but no discussion has taken place because none of the 15 council members has requested it. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because there has been no official council action.
Ri said if the council doesn't discuss the danger from the exercises it will be abandoning its responsibility for ensuring international peace and security.
He said North Korea will respond to every "annual and routine" military exercise in South Korea, "and it can take the form of all types of options starting from missile launches, nuclear test."
Ri called the series of missile and artillery tests carried out by North Korea this year "quite natural, more than justifiable" because they respond to several large military exercises which threaten peace on the Korean peninsula.
"All these kind of rocket launches are giving great strength and encouragement to the Korean People's Army and the people" and reinforce the choice North Korea made to promote "national economic building based on powerful nuclear deterrent," he said.
Ri accused the U.S. of trying to "eliminate" North Korea militarily, promote regime change, and undermine dialogue between the North and South.
Despite its opposition to the upcoming military exercises, Ri said North Korea "will attend the Asian Games" in Seoul in September.