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North Korea says the Japan-Korea Agreement embodies US plans for "NATO in Asia"

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SEOUL — North Korea has criticized the recent agreement on strengthening military cooperation between the United States, South Korea, and Japan as a means of realizing the United States' plans for a military alliance like NATO in the region.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said the same in response to a question asked by KCNA, the state news agency reported on Sunday.

"The reality is that the real purpose of the United States to spread rumors about the'threat from North Korea'is to provide an excuse for gaining military hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. It's clearly shown, "said a spokesman.

"In the current situation, there is an urgent need to strengthen the defense of the country in order to proactively respond to the rapid deterioration of the security environment," a spokesman added.

Leaders of the United States, South Korea and Japan met beside the NATO summit last week and agreed to seek further means to strengthen "extended deterrence" against North Korea. (Report by Jihoon Lee, edited by Jonathan Oatis)