US

North Korea vows toughest response to South Korea-US drills

North Korea on Thursday reacted to the start of U.S.-South Korean war drills with its typical fiery rhetoric. But recent missile and nuclear tests by the North give the usual threats an added weight.

Annual military drills between Seoul and Washington always rile Pyongyang, which calls the defensive drills a rehearsal for an invasion. This year's drills began Wednesday.

The North will "mercilessly foil the nuclear war racket of the aggressors with its treasured nuclear sword," said an unidentified spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army.

He said the North's reaction will be the toughest ever but didn't elaborate.

There is renewed worry in Seoul and Washington because North Korea test-launched a new intermediate-range missile in February. It also conducted two nuclear tests last year.

South Korea's military said later Thursday that it will "resolutely" punish North Korea if provoked.

The ongoing drills are field training that will run until late April. As well, different training involving computer-simulated war games will start in the coming weeks.

The United States has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against a potential aggression from North Korea. The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.