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N. Korea weapons tests draws strong US warning

WASHINGTON D.C.: Amidst concerns that North Korea was preparing to resume nuclear testing, the U.S. envoy for North Korea has said that the U.S. and South Korea would maintain the "strongest possible joint deterrent" over Pyongyang's "escalatory actions."

After arriving in Seoul early this week for a five-day visit, U.S. Special Representative Sung Kim and his deputy, Jung Pak, met South Korean officials, including nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk, coinciding with the start of a nine-day annual joint military drill by U.S. and South Korean troops.

After his talks with Noh, Kim told reporters, "It is extremely important for the United Nations Security Council to send a clear signal to the DPRK that we will not accept its escalatory tests as normal."

"We agreed on the need to maintain the strongest possible joint deterrent capability on the peninsula," he added, affirming that the allies would "respond responsibly and decisively to provocative behaviour."

Meanwhile, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the combined military exercise involves "defensive command post training using computer simulation," and will not involve field manoeuvres by troops.

North Korea has condemned the joint drills, which have been scaled back in recent years amid efforts to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy, and because of COVID-19 restrictions, as rehearsals for war.

According to North Korean state media, the country test fired what it said were missiles that can deliver tactical nuclear weapons.

While the U.S. envoy has repeatedly offered to re-engage with North Korea, Pyongyang has accused Washington of maintaining hostile policies, such as sanctions and military drills.

Kim was also expected to meet with a transition team representing President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who will take office in May.

Kim said at his talks with Noh that Washington is looking forward to working closely with Yoon's team.