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North Korea issues threat over U.S.-South Korea drills

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton signs a Treaty

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton signs a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation at the end of the 17th ASEAN Regional Forum on Friday in Hanoi. Clinton accused North Korea of a campaign of provocation as an Asia-Pacific security forum descended into recriminations over tensions on the Korean peninsula. (July 23, 2010) Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images

HANOI, Vietnam - North Korea raised the stakes in its faceoff with the United States and South Korea on Friday, threatening a "physical response" if Washington and Seoul go ahead with planned joint military exercises that begin Sunday.

As a U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea for the air and sea maneuvers, the North told participants in an Asian regional security conference in Hanoi that the move was a threat to its sovereignty and security.

The exercises were planned in response to the March torpedo sinking of a South Korean naval ship in which 46 sailors died. An international probe said the North was to blame. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.

After Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told participants in the forum that "an isolated and belligerent North Korea has embarked on a campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior," according to prepared remarks, North Korean spokesman Ri Tong Il left the meeting to read a statement in Korean.

Asked to respond in English, he said the North's "position is clear: There will be a physical response to the threat imposed by the United States military."

Early Saturday, the North's official news agency quoted a Pyongyang defense spokesman as saying: "The army and people of the DPRK [North Korea] will legitimately counter with their powerful nuclear deterrence the largest-ever nuclear war exercises to be staged by the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces."

Pyongyang routinely threatens war when the South and the U.S. hold joint military drills, which the North see as rehearsal for an attack. The United States keeps 28,500 troops in the South to deter against aggression, but says it has no intention of invading the North. With AP

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