North Korea has accused the US and its allies of launching a “sinister” attempt to form an “Asian Nato” to contain the regime, hours before Joe Biden and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts meet for security talks.
“The US is hellbent on the military cooperation with its stooges in disregard of the primary security demand and concern by Asia-Pacific countries,” North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA said, on Wednesday.
Biden was due to meet the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, and the South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Madrid to discuss the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in the countries’ first bilateral summit for five years.
Pyongyang has reacted angrily to plans by the US, Japan and South Korea to conduct a combined missile detection and missile tracking exercise near Hawaii in August.
The regime routinely denounces joint military drills between US and South Korean forces as rehearsals for an invasion, and uses them to justify its development of nuclear weapons.
North Korea has conducted a record 31 ballistic missile tests this year, including one involving its largest intercontinental ballistic missile yet. Speculation is growing that the regime is preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017.
Some analysts believe Pyongyang could use a nuclear test to claim that it has acquired the ability to build nuclear warheads small enough to be placed on short-range missiles capable of striking Japan and South Korea.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said at the weekend that the resumption of US-Japan-South Korea drills exposed the hypocrisy behind Washington’s calls for a return to nuclear negotiations without preconditions, three years after talks between Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended in failure.
The exercises, the foreign ministry added, “revealed again that there is no change in the US ambition to overthrow our system by force”.
Biden is coming under pressure to motto a more robust approach to North Korea, after years of international sanctions and condemnation failed to prevent it from developing weapons of mass destruction.
Biden, Kishida and Yoon will discuss how to rein in North Korean provocations, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, reporter told on Tuesday.
The trilateral summit “will be mainly focused on the continuing threat from [North Korea]particularly after an extended period of intense testing and other provocative activities that the North Koreans have undertaken”, he said.
The three leaders will also “discuss what we will do on the economic pressure side, particularly when it comes to depriving the North of hard currency that they use to fund their nuclear and missile programs”, Sullivan added.
The shift towards closer trilateral security cooperation will come as a relief to US officials, after years of tension between Japan and South Korea – its two main allies in the region – over historical issues relating to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
Washington has repeatedly encouraged Seoul and Tokyo to settle their differences in the face of North Korean threats and increased Chinese military activity in the South and East China seas.
The KCNA statement, however, condemned the “military alliance” as “motivated by Japan and South Korea’s kowtowing to the US,” adding that it was a “dangerous prelude to the creation of an Asian version of Nato”.
In a separate commentary carried by the news agency, Kim Hyo-myung, a researcher at North Korea’s International Society for Political Research, blamed Nato for the war in Ukraine, adding that there were “ominous signs that sooner or later the black waves in the North Atlantic will break the calm in the Pacific”.
Kim added: “Nato is nothing more than a servant of the realization of the US hegemony strategy and a tool of local aggression.”