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‘Asian version of Nato’: North Korea slams joint drills by US, South Korea and Japan

North Korea criticised the trilateral “Freedom Edge” military exercise by South Korea, Japan and the United States held this month, state media said on Sunday, saying such drills show the relationship among three countries has developed into “the Asian version of Nato”.

On Thursday, the three countries began large-scale joint military drills involving navy destroyers, fighter aircraft and the nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, aimed at boosting defences against missiles, submarines and air attacks.

The “Freedom Edge” exercise was devised at the three-way summit at Camp David last year to strengthen military cooperation amid tensions on the Korean peninsula stemming from North Korea’s weapons testing.

Pyongyang will not ignore the strengthening of a military bloc led by the US and its allies and will protect regional peace with an aggressive and overwhelming response, North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement, according to KCNA news agency.

The ministry also said Washington was continuing its effort to link up South Korea and Japan to Nato, adding South Korea’s attempts to supply weapons to Ukraine is one example of that effort.

South Korea said it would review the possibility of supplying arms directly to Ukraine, in protest against a recent mutual defence pact signed between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

South Korea and the United States have accused the North of supplying weapons to Russia that are being used in the Ukraine war. Both Russia and North Korea deny any such transactions.

North Korea has long condemned joint drills between the United States and South Korea as a rehearsal for invasion and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.