North Korea wants an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to protest upcoming US-South Korean military exercises, saying they increase the danger of war on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea's deputy ambassador Ri Tong Il criticised the council for its failure to respond to the country's July 21 letter requesting a meeting. He said the joint exercises are a threat to international peace and security that must be addressed.
If there was any "spark" during the exercises, Ri warned, "it would easily and immediately turn into war". The US and the Security Council would be responsible for any deaths.
He said Washington and Seoul were hinting they would push ahead with the mid-August exercises involving between up to 500,000 American and South Korean forces, despite Pyongyang's opposition.
Ri accused the US of engaging in "nuclear blackmail" by bringing nuclear-armed ships, submarines and bombers to South Korea for military exercises.
"As long as the US is threatening with missiles, we will do the same," he said.
North Korea had already made clear that its long-range ballistic missiles were pointing at the US, Ri said.
Kurtis Cooper, spokesman for the US Mission to the United Nations, said the annual joint military exercises were "transparent, defence-oriented" and had been carried out openly for about 40 years.
He said 10 countries would be participating in the exercises, which had been planned months in advance and monitored to ensure full compliance with the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Ri said North Korea would respond to every military exercise in South Korea. The response could involve missile launches and nuclear tests.
He called the series of missile and artillery tests carried out by North Korea this year "quite natural, more than justifiable" because they respond to several large military exercises which threaten peace on the Korean peninsula.
"All these kind of rocket launches are giving great strength and encouragement to the Korean People's Army and the people."
Ri accused the US of trying to "eliminate" North Korea militarily, promote regime change, and undermine dialogue between the North and South.