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North Korea complains about ‘stink’ of U.S.-South Korea military exercises

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

US President Joe Biden's administration says it has been trying to contact the North Korean government since February but has yet to receive a response.

It came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk to allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.

The talks process was brokered by South Korea's President Moon Jae-in but relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have been in deep freeze since Kim and Trump's summit in Hanoi collapsed in February 2019.

"It will not be easy for the warm spring days of three years ago to come back if the South Korean government follows whatever instructions of its master", she added, threatening to scrap a North-South military agreement if Seoul acts "more provocatively".

"To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang", the official said.

"We take this opportunity to warn the new USA administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land".

"If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step", the statement read.

Challenges posed by North Korea's nuclear arsenal and China's growing influence loom large in the Biden administration's first Cabinet-level trip overseas, part of a larger effort to bolster US influence and clam concerns about the USA role in Asia following four years of Donald Trump's "America first" approach.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday confirmed the news agency AFP's reports that the Biden administration's outreach efforts toward North Korea have been met with silence.

The senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered few details about the diplomatic push.

Austin and Blinken arrived in Tokyo on Monday and will be consulting with both it and Seoul on the new administration's review of U.S. policy towards Pyongyang, but China will be the main focus of their discussions.

Biden's presidency begins as Kim Jong Un faces perhaps the toughest moment of his nine-year rule. Sanctions have so far failed to convince Mr Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.

While Mr. Kim has vowed to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in recent political speeches, he also has said the fate of USA relations depends on Washington's actions.

But inter-Korean relations have lain in ruin amid the stalemate in the nuclear diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang.

Seoul and Washington are treaty allies, with the U.S. stationing around 28,500 troops in the South to defend it against its neighbour, and they began computer-simulated joint military exercises last week. The computer-simulated drills were held in a scaled down manner this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and did not involve outdoor maneuvers.

"War exercises and dialogue, hostility and cooperation can never exist together", she said in a statement carried by state media. A confidential United Nations report found that North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of global sanctions, helping fund them with some $300 million stolen through cyber hacks. "In any circumstances, we can not stop our efforts for talks and cooperation", a ministry official said.

Boo Seung-chan, a spokesperson from South Korea's Defense Ministry, said the combined drills were defensive in nature and called for the North to show a more "flexible attitude" that would be constructive to stabilising peace on the Korean Peninsula.

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