North Korea rejects talks with US, citing 'hostile policy'

In this photo provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, center, F-22 fighter jets and South Korean Air Force F-35 fighter jets, bottom, fly during a joint air drill in South Korea, Jan. 1, 2023.[AP]

North Korea on Thursday ruled out the idea of dialogue with the United States, accusing Washington of a "full-scale offensive" that is turning the Korean Peninsula into a "war zone."

In a statement posted to state media, North Korea's Foreign Ministry complained of the "reckless military confrontational maneuvers and hostile acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces."

"The more dangerous the U.S. threat to the DPRK gets, the stronger backfire the U.S. will face in direct proportion to it," the statement warned, using an abbreviation for North Korea's official name.

The statement came a day after the U.S. and South Korea held joint air drills involving U.S. B-1B long-range strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the Yellow Sea off Korea's west coast.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the exercises "show the U.S.'s will and capabilities to provide strong and credible extended deterrence against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats."

During a visit to Seoul earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to increase the deployment of U.S. "strategic assets," which include long-range bombers, nuclear-capable airplanes and aircraft carrier strike groups.

The allies will also soon hold so-called tabletop exercises meant to discuss hypothetical North Korean uses of nuclear weapons, Austin confirmed.

Displays of military might

The U.S. and South Korea say their increased displays of military strength are a response to North Korean provocations, which in many ways have reached new heights.

North Korea launched at least 95 missiles last year, blasting through its previous record. Some of the missiles prompted air raid alerts and shelter warnings in South Korea and Japan.

At a year-end speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to exponentially increase nuclear warhead production.

The moves have rattled South Korea, which does not have its own nuclear weapons but instead relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. However, in trying to reassure South Korea, the United States is also angering the North.

In its statement Thursday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry blasted the Pentagon chief's visit to Seoul, accusing him of "unhesitatingly talking about the use of nuclear weapons against the DPRK."

"This is a vivid expression of the U.S. dangerous scenario which will result in turning the Korean Peninsula into a huge war arsenal and a more critical war zone," the statement said.

'Not interested' in dialogue

North Korea has long accused the U.S. of a "hostile policy" and has vowed future U.S. moves will prompt a quick response.

Even as it expands its military activity, the U.S. has repeatedly offered to hold talks with North Korea on denuclearization. It has also offered COVID-19 humanitarian aid.

North Korea has repeatedly rejected the offers, calling them a "shameless" attempt to "gain time."

"The DPRK is not interested in any contact or dialogue with the U.S. as long as it pursues its hostile policy and confrontational line," the Foreign Ministry said, accusing Washington of trying to force the unilateral disarmament of North Korea.