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North Korea threatens to 'counter' U.S. over military drills

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea threatened on Saturday to "counter the U.S." if the United States holds joint military exercises with South Korea, and said it would not beg for talks with Washington.

The United States is due to start joint exercises in early April, a South Korean presidential security adviser said this week according to Yonhap news agency - the latest in a series of drills that the north has regularly described as a threat.

"If the U.S. finally holds joint military exercises while keeping sanctions on the DPRK, the DPRK will counter the U.S. by its own mode of counteraction and the U.S. will be made to own all responsibilities for the ensuing consequences," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said in its commentary, saying the drills would harm reconciliation efforts on the peninsula.

The DPRK is the acronym of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On Feb. 23, the United States said it was imposing its largest package of sanctions to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs. President Donald Trump warned of a“phase two” that could be “very, very unfortunate for the world” if the steps did not work.

North Korea has slammed Trump's unilateral sanctions against it, but it said it was open to talks with the United States during senior North Korean officials' visit to South Korea for the Olympics last month.

The White House said any talks with North Korea must lead to an end of its nuclear program.

North Korea reiterated on Saturday that it was willing to talk to the United States but said it would never sit with any precondition.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by state media KCNA news agency as saying "we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the U.S."

"Whether peace desired by our nation and the rest of the world settles on the Korean peninsula or a situation that no one desires is developed in the vicious cycle of confrontation depends entirely on the attitude of the U.S." the spokesman said, according to KCNA.

South Korea plans to send a special envoy to North Korea in response to an invitation from leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Trump in a phone call on Thursday.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month gave a boost to recent engagement between the two Koreas after sharply rising tensions over the North’s missile program.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Ju-min Park; Editing by Stephen Powell)