UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea wants to take its complaints about U.S. and South Korean military exercises to the U.N. Security Council, saying the annual maneuvers are recklessly provocative at a time when tensions are "like a time bomb" — a message delivered as the North continued launching missiles.
A letter from North Korea's U.N. ambassador, Ja Song Nam, dated Friday and released Monday, asked Egypt as Security Council president to schedule a discussion urgently.
It's like adding "fuel to open fire" that the U.S. is staging a "provocative and aggressive joint military exercise at this critical moment of the Korean Peninsula, where the situation is just like a time bomb" that nobody is sure "when to blow up," he wrote.
It was not clear whether his request for a discussion would be granted, or indeed whether other countries might seek a meeting in light of North Korea's most recent missile tests Saturday and Tuesday. The latest, which unfolded while it was still Monday at U.N. headquarters, sent a ballistic missile over Japan and then into the Pacific Ocean.
Asked shortly afterward whether the Security Council should take action, Egyptian Ambassdor Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta said that speaking as a national envoy, he wanted to consult with other council members.
Pyongyang regularly argues that the U.S.-South Korean military exercises are an invasion rehearsal. The U.S. says their only purpose is to improve readiness to defend South Korea and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.
"Our annual joint military exercises are transparent, defense-oriented, and have been carried out regularly and openly under the Combined Forces Command for roughly 40 years," Grace Choi at the U.S. State Department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau said Monday. She said there was "no equivalency between our defense-oriented military exercises" and North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
With a series of sanctions, the U.N. has called for North Korea to suspend all ballistic missile launches and abandon its nuclear weapons. North Korea has repeatedly said it will never give up its nuclear arsenal, which it sees as a guarantee of its security.
South Korea's U.N. mission didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on North Korea's letter.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.