North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills

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North Korea
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North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills
In this May 28, 2015 photo, Yun Chang Hyok, Vice Chief of the Research Institute of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, talks during an interview in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that say the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies. (AP Photo/APTN)
In this May 28, 2015 photo, Paek Chang Ho, Vice Director of the Scientific Research and Development Department of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, talks during an interview in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that say the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies. (AP Photo/APTN)
FILE - In thus Dec. 16, 2014 file photo, North Koreans gather at the Mansu Hill where the statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong Il tower over them, in Pyongyang, North Korea. The U.S. is imposing sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for the cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday authorizing the sanctions. Although the U.S. has already sanctioned North Korea over its nuclear program, these are the first sanctions punishing Pyongyang for alleged cyberattacks. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this photo released by South Korea's Navy and distributed by Yonhap news agency, a sea-to-air missile "Sea Sparrow" is launched from South Korean destroyer Uljimundeok during a fire drill to mark the fourth anniversary of North Korea’s artillery attack in the West Sea, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. North Korea threatened Thursday to bolster its war capability and conduct a fourth nuclear test to cope with what it calls U.S. hostility that led to the approval of a landmark U.N. resolution on its human rights violations. (AP Photo/South Korean Navy via Yonhap) KOREA OUT
PAJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 10: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout provided by the Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily, North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, prepare to release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North Korea's nuclear test, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on October 10, 2014 in Paju, South Korea. Seoul's military said they exchanged machine gun fire with North Korea on Friday, after the North opened fire toward balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border. (Photo by Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2014 file photo, a North Korea's mock Scud-B missile, center, stands among South Korean missiles displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea said Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015 that rival North Korea has a 6,000-member cyber army dedicated to disrupting the South's military and government. The figure is a dramatic increase from its earlier estimate that the North had a cyberwarfare staff of 3,000. Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a report that North Korea may also have gained the ability to strike the U.S. mainland because of its recent progress in missile technology, which was demonstrated in five long-range missile tests in 2009 and 2012, and is advancing in efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads to mount on such missiles. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
In this Wednesday, April 9, 2014 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up parliament membership certificate during the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's newly-selected parliament met for the first time on Wednesday in Pyongyang. It was the first time that North Korea has reassembled its parliament under new leader Kim. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
The city skyline is shrouded by a layer of mist after a torrential rain in Pyongyang, Monday, July 22, 2013. The country is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
In this Sunday, May 13, 2012 photo, a North Korean family rests on a grassy spot near the skyline of a newly developed area of Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Clouds hang over the skyline of central Pyongyang, North Korea Monday April 18, 2011. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, a view of the skyline of downtown Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Jean H. Lee)
Juche Tower stands above the skyline across from Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 2013/09/19: Pyongyang's newly built luxury housing for those citizens who are more fortunate in North Korea. 60 years after the Korean War, it is clear that not much has changed in North Korea. The country still remains under heavy censorship, with only a small portion of the population living the life of what we call 'middle class'. The people of North Korea are forced into believing that working for the greater good of the state is the formal way of presenting their national determination. The city of Pyongyang is outdated, with only a handful of cars driven by those who are a bit more fortunate. Propaganda rates are high, with many billboards displaying missiles and world domination regimes. North Korea remains a strictly isolated country where people do not have the privileges that we take for granted. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode above the Pyongyaang skyline during a display to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice agreement, in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. North Korea mounted its largest ever military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, displaying its long-range missiles at a ceremony presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
The Yanggakdo Football Stadium stands before the Pyongyang city skyline on April 13, 2012. North Korea launched a long-range rocket, South Korea's defence ministry and US officials said, with Japan saying that the launch had appeared to have failed. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/04/01: The construction skeleton of what would be the world tallest hotel. Unfortunately, the 105 story Ryuyong Hotel and its five rotating restaurants will likely never open. When personel from Hyatt hotels inspected the site they discovered that the elevator shaft wasn't even straight. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/02/01: A hotel on the river in Pyongyang. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A smartly dressed business woman walks under North Korean flags and the imposing Juche Tower.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, Pyongyang, Moranbong Theatre, venue of National Symphony Orchestra - Fountain statues detail;
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 16, 2014: Figure 1-A. DigitalGlobe imagery of the bypass road constructed at the West Portal of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. Date: September 16, 2014 -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JUNE 22, 2014: This is Figure 3-2 -- DigitalGlobe imagery of an after photo of the dam failure at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center showing sand being excavated for the new dam. Image taken on June 22, 2014 -- published on 38 North (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
This video grab taken from North Korean TV on March 20, 2013 shows a Self-Propelled Suface to Air Missile during North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's overseeing of a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors. Kim Jong-Un oversaw a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors, state media said, amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. ----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / NORTH KOREAN TV' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - AFP PHOTO/HO/NORTH KOREAN TV (Photo credit should read NORTH KOREAN TV/AFP/Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, a South Korean sea-to-land cruise missile is fired from a submarine during a drill at an undisclosed location in South Korea. South Korea also Wednesday it has deployed cruise missiles with "world-class accuracy and destructive power" that are capable of hitting any target in North Korea at any time, and is speeding up the planned deployment of ballistic missiles. North Korea's neighbors bolstered their military preparations and mobilized scientists Wednesday to determine whether Pyongyang's third nuclear test, conducted in defiance of U.N. warnings, was as successful as the North claimed. (AP Photo/South Korea Defense Ministry)
In this undated photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, a South Korean ship-to-land cruise missile is fired from a destroyer during a drill at an undisclosed location in South Korea. South Korea said Wednesday it has deployed cruise missiles with "world-class accuracy and destructive power" that are capable of hitting any target in North Korea at any time, and is speeding up the planned deployment of ballistic missiles. North Korea's neighbors bolstered their military preparations and mobilized scientists Wednesday to determine whether Pyongyang's third nuclear test, conducted in defiance of U.N. warnings, was as successful as the North claimed. (AP Photo/South Korea Defense Ministry)
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(Reuters) - North Korea said on Saturday it was willing to suspend nuclear tests if the United States agreed to call off annual military drills held jointly with South Korea, but Washington rejected the proposal as a veiled threat.

The offer, which the North's official KCNA news agency said was conveyed to Washington on Friday through "a relevant channel", follows an often repeated demand by Pyongyang for an end to the large-scale defensive drills by the allies.

"The message proposed (that) the U.S. contribute to easing tension on the Korean peninsula by temporarily suspending joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year," KCNA said in a report.

"(The message) said that in this case the DPRK is ready to take such a responsive step as temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the U.S. is concerned," KCNA said, using the short form for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

34 PHOTOS
Kim Jong Un
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North Korea offers to suspend nuclear tests if U.S. suspends military drills
In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, salutes during a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the country's founding, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)
In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, salutes during a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the country's founding, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
FILE - In this July 27, 2013 file photo, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un waves to spectators and participants of a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's young leader wasn't in his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, adding to South Korean media speculation that Kim may be ill. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
Kim Jong Un flashes his computer skills for gathered North Korean officials. (KCNA/Reuters/Corbis)
ADDS WHERE KIM APPEARED - A man watches a TV news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using a cane, reportedly during his first public appearance in five weeks in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has made his first public appearance in five weeks, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a cane while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, state media reported Tuesday, ending an absence that drove a frenzy of global speculation that something was amiss with the country's most powerful person. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
ADDS WHERE KIM APPEARED - A shopper passes by TV monitors displaying a news program at an electronic shop in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, showing a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiling, reportedly during his first public appearance in five weeks in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has made his first public appearance in five weeks, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a cane while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, state media reported Tuesday, ending an absence that drove a frenzy of global speculation that something was amiss with the country's most powerful person. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walking with a stick in Pyongyang, North Korea, is carried on the front page of a South Korea's English newspaper kept at a newspaper distributing station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday evening, Oct. 14, 2014. Kim, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a walking stick, appeared earlier Tuesday in the North's state media for the first time in nearly six weeks, ending rumors that he was gravely ill, deposed or worse. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this image taken from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)
FILE - In this Thursday, July 25, 2013 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives at the cemeteries of fallen fighters of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in Pyongyang, as part of ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula. North Korea's propaganda machine has long kept alive the myth of a serene, all-powerful ruling dynasty that enjoyed universal love and support at home. In a single stroke last week, that came crashing down. In attempting to justify the execution of his uncle, who was also considered the North's No. 2 official, young leader Kim Jong Un has given the world a rare look behind the scenes of a notoriously hard-to-read government. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this Saturday, July 27, 2013 photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to war veterans during a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. A Malaysian university faced public criticism Thursday for awarding an honorary doctorate in economics to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose country is among the poorest in the world. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, arrives at the cemeteries of fallen fighters of the Korean People's Army (KPA) on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Pyongyang, North Korea as part of ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are seen displayed as North Koreans participate in the "Arirang" mass games on Monday, July 22, 2013 in pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has revealed a new rendition of the "Arirang" mass games, the song-and-dance ensemble. This year’s performance was timed to debut for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, and features new scenes focusing on leader Kim Jong Un’s directives. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
In this Feb. 16, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, right, attends a statue unveiling ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. The aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been named to an ad-hoc state committee, the country's official media reported Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, an indication that the execution of her husband and the country's No. 2, Jang Song Thaek ,has not immediately diminished her influence. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video, File) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Feb. 16, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, waves as he attends a statue unveiling ceremony at Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this image taken from video made available on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers an annual New Year's Day message in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim boasted Wednesday that North Korea enters the new year on a surge of strength because of the elimination of "factionalist filth" - a reference to the young leader's once powerful uncle, whose execution last month raised questions about Kim's grip on power. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Jan. 28, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers opening remarks at the Fourth Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," state media said Sunday, fueling speculation that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) NORTH KOREA OUT, TV OUT
In this Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a banquet for rocket scientists in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has called for the development of more powerful rockets after last week's successful launch of a satellite into space. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) NORTH KOREA OUT
South Korean protesters hold the pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. North Korea successfully fired a long-range rocket on Wednesday, defying international warnings as the regime of Kim Jong Un took a giant step forward in its quest to develop the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead. The letters read "Out, Pro-North Korea politic." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A cutout of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displayed during a protest denouncing North Korea for trying to intervene in the upcoming South Korean presidential election scheduled for Dec. 20, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. The cutout reads "Novice." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this video image taken from KRT, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up his credential at the Supreme People's Assembly's second meeting of the year, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. North Korea's parliament convened Tuesday for the second time in six months, passing a law that adds one year of compulsory education for children in the socialist nation, the first publicly-announced policy change under leader Kim. (AP Photo/KRT via AP video) NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, waves to the crowd as they inspect the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this image released by by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Wednesday July 25, 2012 North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre, Ri Sol Ju, centre left. visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, which is nearing completion, in this undated picture North Korea's new, young leader Kim Jong Un is married, state TV reported Wednesday for the first time in a brief and otherwise routine announcement that ends weeks of speculation about a beautiful woman who has accompanied him to recent public events. Kim toured an amusement park with his "wife, comrade Ri Sol Ju" on Tuesday, while a crowd cheered for the leader, the news anchor said without giving any more details about Ri, including how long they had been married. (AP Photo/KCNA KNS) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
North Korea's new commander in chief, Kim Jong Un is displayed on a giant screen during a concert on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
An effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is burned by anti-North Korea protesters during a rally denouncing the North's recent announcement in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. North Korea sharply escalated the rhetoric against its southern rival, claiming it will soon conduct "special actions" that would reduce South Korea's conservative government to ashes within minutes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from a balcony at the end of a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of his grandfather, and North Korean founder, Kim Il Sung on Sunday, April 15, 2012. Kim delivered his first public televised speech Sunday, just two days after a failed rocket launch, portraying himself as a strong military chief unafraid of foreign powers during festivities meant to glorify his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this April 13, 2012 image made Saturday, April 14, 2012, from KRT video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps hands during the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been installed as the new head of the powerful National Defence Commission in the meeting Friday. (AP Photo/KRT via AP video) NORTH KOREA OUT, TV OUT
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives for the unveiling ceremony for statues of late leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung on Munsudae hill in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by Korean People's Army soldiers visits a KPA unit at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during his visit to the Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 3870 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this image made from KRT television, Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's youngest known son and successor, wipes his eyes with handkerchief as he views his father's body displayed in a glass coffin, not in photo, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Kim Jong Un, hailed as the "great successor" in state media, visited his father's coffin again Friday. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
An effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displayed during a rally to mark the the third anniversary of North Korea’s artillery attack on the Yeonpyeong island, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Four people, including two marines and two civilians, were killed by North Korea's attack. The banner reads "Hang Kim Jong Un, Strike Pyongyang and Get rid of pro-North ." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters burn an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters shout slogans during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the nuclear tests and military exercises were separate issues.

"The DPRK statement that inappropriately links routine US-ROK exercises to the possibility of a nuclear test by North Korea is an implicit threat," Psaki told reporters traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry in Europe.

The United States and South Korea have carried out the joint military exercises for roughly 40 years, she added.

Psaki said the United States remained open to dialogue with North Korea and urged Pyongyang to "immediately cease all threats, reduce tensions, and take the necessary steps toward denuclearization needed to resume credible negotiations."

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, the last in February 2013, and is under U.N. sanctions for defying international warnings not to set off atomic devices in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, which Pyongyang calls its "sacred sword".

It often promises to call off nuclear and missile tests in return for comparable steps by Washington to ease tensions. It reached such a deal in February 2012 with the United States for an arms tests moratorium only to scrap it two months later.

North Korea Offers Nuclear Tests Deal

The United States and South Korea have stressed that the annual drills, which in some years involved U.S. aircraft carriers, are purely defensive in nature, aimed at testing the allies' readiness to confront any North Korean aggression.

Tension peaked on the Korean peninsula in March 2013 when the North ratcheted up rhetoric during the annual drills, with Pyongyang threatening war and putting its forces in a state of combat readiness.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Munich; Editing byDoina Chiacu and Dominic Evans)

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