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North Korea warns South, US over 'provocative' military drills

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FILE: March 9, 2013: The guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82), arrives to participate in the annual joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve, between the South Korean and United States. (AP)

North Korea demanded that South Korea and the United States cancel annual military exercises planned for February and March, saying the drills were a "dangerous" provocation that could push the situation on the Korean Peninsula to a catastrophe. 

The North's KCNA state news agency quoted a committee in charge of efforts to promote Korean unification as saying the drills have "created such a deplorable situation in which huge aggression troops of the U.S. are deployed in areas close to the Military Demarcation Line."  

"We sternly warn the U.S. and the South Korean authorities to stop the dangerous military exercises which may push the situation on the peninsula and the North-South ties to a catastrophe," the statement from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said, UPI reported.  

South Korea and the U.S. regularly conduct routine, defense-oriented drills such as the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises to help to bolster security on the peninsula and to highlight the longstanding military partnership between the two countries.

North Korea has described the drills as a prelude to invasion. In 2013, the North warned the top American commander in South Korea of "miserable destruction" if the U.S. military pressed ahead with the same exercises scheduled to begin next month. 

The North said the announcement of the this year's drills "is little short of the declaration of a total nuclear stand-off," adding the exercises will cause the North-South ties to plunge into an "unimaginable holocaust and that disaster will follow should they go ahead with the nuclear war drills and make military provocation, defying our warning," according to UPI. 

South Korea said Wednesday the drills will go ahead as planned and that North Korea's military has showed no sign of unusual activity, Reuters reported. 

"If North Korea actually commits military aggression at the excuse of what is a normal exercise we conduct as preparation for emergency, our military will mercilessly and decisively punish them," South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok told reporters Wednesday. 

North Korea drew worldwide condemnation last year after it announced it conducted its third nuclear test ahead of the joint drills, in direct defiance to U.N. Security Council orders to shut down its atomic activity or face more sanctions and international isolation.