North Korea has appealed to Southeast Asian countries for support in its confrontation with the US to prevent what it warned could be a “nuclear holocaust”.
In the letter to the secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho warned the situation was “reaching the brink of war” because of Washington’s actions.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests and uncompromising rhetoric from the Trump administration on the nation’s nuclear programme.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by Agence France-Presse was dated March 23.
It said: ”I express my expectations that ASEAN which attaches great importance to the regional peace and stability will make an issue of the US-South Korean joint military exercises at ASEAN conferences from the fair position and play an active role in safeguarding the peace and safety of Korean Peninsula.”
No official statement on the issue has yet been released by the bloc.
North Korea has maintained reasonably close ties with some ASEAN members, including Cambodia and Laos.
However, diplomatic ties with Malaysia were damaged after the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-Un, in Kuala Lumpur in February.
Foreign minister Ri also wrote in the letter that the annual US-South Korea military exercises justified Pyongyang’s decision to develop its own nuclear weapons.
“It is a fact clear to everyone that when they deploy the means of nuclear strike that can drive the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear holocaust in just seconds… the nature of such exercises can in no way be defensive,” the letter said.
Washington has deployed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula amid signs the North could be preparing for a sixth nuclear test.