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N Korea denounces criminal military exercise

North Korea denounced a planned US-South Korean military exercise as a "criminal act" which would raise tensions on the divided peninsula.

world Updated: Jul 10, 2008 12:52 IST

North Korea on Thursday denounced a planned US-South Korean military exercise as a "criminal act" which would raise tensions on the divided peninsula.

The comments were made at colonel-level talks between the two sides in the border truce village of Panmunjom, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The North routinely criticises such exercises as a prelude to invasion, while the US and South Korea say they are purely defensive.

The agency said Senior Colonel Kwak Yong-Hun urged the US to cancel the drill, calling it a "criminal act" which would heighten tension.

While paying lip-service to improving relations, the US military is staging war exercises aimed at attacking North Korea "almost every day," he said.

KCNA said the North called the Panmunjom meeting mainly to protest against "provocative acts" obstructing North Korean guards at the truce village.

It gave no details but said Kwak warned that his country's troops would "never pardon anyone infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK (North Korea) even slightly."

A spokesman for US forces in South Korea confirmed that at the meeting the US told the North of its planned annual joint exercise next month.

"Today, we informed North Korea of our plan to hold the exercise from August 18 to 22," he told AFP.

In Beijing on Thursday negotiators from North Korea, the US and four other nations were set to meet to discuss next steps in shutting down the North's nuclear programmes.

The US has stationed troops in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war and currently deploys 28,500 of them.