if they do not join forces in the wake of US military drills in the region
- North Korean foreign minister drafted a letter to 10 Southeast Asian countries
- In it, he said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was reaching the brink of war
- He blamed Washtington's actions for the 'grave situation' and asked for backing
- Tensions soared in the wake of North Korean missile tests and tough a US stance
North Korea has warned of a nuclear holocaust if Southeast Asian countries do not join forces in the wake of US military drills in the region.
In a letter to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' secretary general, North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-Ho insisted the situation on the Korean Peninsula was 'reaching the brink of war' because of Washington's actions.
He urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chief to inform the 10 countries' foreign ministers 'about the grave situation' on the peninsula 'and give them a proper proposal', and also heavily criticised US-South Korean military exercises.
Tensions have soared in the region in recent weeks in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests and tough rhetoric from Washington on the isolated nation's rogue weapons programme.
North Korean soldiers march with huge weapons as the country's foreign minister warns of war
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the Masikryong ski competition last year
A still taken from a broadcast in a news bulletin by North Korea's KRT on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, shows what was said to be a 'Combined Fire Demonstration' held to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the North Korean army, in Wonsan, North Korea
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as it transits the Philippine Sea while conducting a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force in the Philippine Sea, the military exercises referred to by the North Korean ministry
The North's letter, dated March 23, emerged ahead of the regional bloc's summit this week in Manila where delegates are expected to discuss the situation on the peninsula.
It read: '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.'
A draft of ASEAN's end-of-summit chairman statement obtained this week had a portion on the Korean Peninsula still blank, meaning the leaders had yet to agree on what to say on the issue.
North Korea is known to have close ties with some ASEAN members, including Cambodia and Laos.
Kim Jong Nam, pictured, died earlier this year
Pyongyang's diplomatic ties with Malaysia were disrupted after the assassination in Kuala Lumpur in February of Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean lader Kim Jong-Un.
South Korea has blamed Pyongyang for the killing, accusing its agents of using a banned nerve agent.
Ri 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 an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula amid signs the North could be preparing for a sixth nuclear test.
Admiral Harry Harris, who heads the US Pacific Command, said in Washington this week the US Carl Vinson strike group was in the Philippine Sea just east of Okinawa, 'in striking range and power projection range of North Korea if called upon to do that'.