North Korea vows more offensive response to US 'threats' -KCNA

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik attend a welcome ceremony in Seoul

By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea on Thursday criticised a recent visit to South Korea by top U.S. defence officials and vowed more "offensive" responses to what it called military threats from the United States and its allies, state media reported.

In a statement carried by the KCNA news agency, a spokesperson for the North's defence ministry blamed the United States for raising tensions in the region, referring to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's Seoul visit this week.

"The armed forces of the DPRK will strongly control and manage all threats to its national security and interests with more offensive and overwhelming counteraction capabilities and through visible strategic deterrent military actions," the statement said.

DPRK are the initials of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

During Austin's visit, South Korea and the United States revised a bilateral security agreement aimed at deterring North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats.

South Korea's defence ministry said the revision was necessary because the existing strategy did not adequately address rapid advancements in North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

North Korea has said the United States and its allies were responsible for aggravating military tensions on the Korean peninsula, citing their large-scale military drills and the increased presence of U.S. strategic assets in the region.

This week, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. State Department has approved a potential sale of Sidewinder missiles and the Standard Missile 6 Block I to South Korea in a move it said would improve the security of the United States' major ally.

"The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea's capability to meet current and future threats while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies," the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement, using South Korea's official name.

Austin's visit followed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's trip to South Korea last week. In their back-to-back visits, the top U.S. officials sought to provide reassurances on Washington's commitment to the region, while voicing concerns over growing Russia-North Korea ties.

North Korea and Russia have denied any arms deals, though their leaders pledged closer military cooperation at their September summit.

On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin held talks with his Japanese counterpart, Yoko Kamikawa, in San Francisco and agreed to continue cooperation to address North Korea's nuclear threats, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Chris Reese, Cynthia Osterman and Gerry Doyle)