PYONGYANG, North Korea -- North Korea warned the top American commander in South Korea on Saturday of "miserable destruction" if the U.S. military presses ahead with routine joint drills with South Korea set to begin next month.
Pak Rim Su, chief of North Korea's military delegation to the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone, sent the warning Saturday morning to Gen. James Thurman, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said, in a rare direct message to the U.S. commander.
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The threat comes as the U.S. and other nations discuss how to punish North Korea for conducting an underground nuclear test on Feb. 12 in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from nuclear and missile activity.
North Korea has characterized the nuclear test, its third since 2006, as a defensive act against U.S. aggression. Pyongyang accuses Washington of "hostility" for leading the charge to punish North Korea for a December rocket launch that the U.S. considers a covert missile test.
The U.S. and North Korea fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, and left the Korean Peninsula divided by a heavily fortified border monitored by the U.S.-led U.N. Command.
Washington also stations 28,500 American troops in South Korea to protect its ally against North Korean aggression.
South Korea and the U.S. regularly conduct joint drills such as the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises slated to take place next month. North Korea calls the drills proof of U.S. hostility, and accuses Washington of practicing for an invasion.
"You had better bear in mind that those igniting a war are destined to meet a miserable destruction," KCNA quoted Pak as saying in his message to Thurman. He called the drills "reckless."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, has been making a round of visits to military units guiding troops in drills and exercises since the nuclear test, KCNA said.